Afterschool Enrichment in Philadelphia
Afterschool Enrichment is one of our six programs that combat the opportunity gap for DREAM mentees. It focuses on supporting the academic growth of mentees and is entirely voluntary for them. Whether they need help with their homework or are looking to improve on their reading or math skills, DREAM mentees can find a welcoming and rewarding environment with their Afterschool Enrichment Coordinator.
In Philadelphia, at the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) Program, Cheyanne Smith and Tamia Moi-Thuk Shung have been helping run Afterschool Enrichment for around 7-10 DREAM mentees who show up to the community center after school. They partner with two more Afterschool Enrichment coordinators who work on separate days. Despite being outnumbered, Cheyanne and Tamia run activities like an oiled machine. The kids must complete a worksheet (provided by the Afterschool Enrichment team) before they are allowed to free play. After free play, they are reined back in for an activity related to the topic of the day before they go home. Tamia says routine is the only way for the mentees to learn to settle down once they arrive from school.
Once at the community center, all mentees are expected to follow guidelines established during the summer (the mentees helped come up with these); No phones; complete worksheet; be respectful; and don’t bully; these help set the tone for a successful Afterschool Enrichment session.
The idea is to emphasize positive feedback and to validate the mentees as much as possible. Cheyanne was very clear in that she did not want the Afterschool session to feel like more school. It would be a place of support, but one that also fostered a sense of fun and rewarded the mentees for their progress. Rather than saying “No” all the time to shut down behavior or stop problems, Cheyenne and Tamia make sure to offer solutions to any qualms that come up and listen to the mentees. It may become tedious, because often solutions are learned slowly, but it is necessary to address what the mentees need rather than dismiss their behavior to establish order. There are many ways to reinforce positive behavior as well. For example, Cheyanne gave each of the mentees a bag and had them write their name it; whenever they did something well, she would drop a sticker or another small prize inside and let them take it home when the session was done.
One on one time, though rarer than ideal (the more help the merrier) can be extremely rewarding for both the teacher and the student. One of Cheyanne’s biggest moments this year was when Azuri – one of her younger mentees who is learning to sound out words she reads – was finally able to get the words right after Cheyanne helped her pronounce them. She was having trouble pronouncing the word "mouse" instead of "mice" in a book where the mice have to deal with a rogue cat in their house. Many of the younger mentees complain of not getting enough one on one time with their teachers at school, so these afterschool sessions do a wonderful job of providing some extra opportunities for that.
Afterschool Enrichment remains an integral part of our mentees’ week. In future the Afterschool Enrichment team is looking to host joint programming with another study organization that uses rooms in the community center. Since the kids all go to the same school and DREAM shares a building with them, this will be a great opportunity to combine resources and have the DREAMers socialize outside their circle.