COLUMBIA – Several students around the city go straight home after the school bell rings, but some don’t. Instead they participate in after-school programs that focus on the growth of their social and academic skills.
“What we try to do is remove the barrier that is stopping the kids from receiving their education,” Moving Ahead Program Director Janice Brooks said.
The Moving Ahead After-school Program has 83 students, ranging from kindergarteners to 8th graders. Students arrive at the J.W. Blind Boone Community Center after school, get snacks, then are separated by age groups.
Half of the kids stay upstairs in the 4th graders to 8th graders room. While the kindergarteners through 3rd graders go downstairs with Staff Leader Megan Blanton.
“Once I started working here I realized I really a had a passion for kids and that’s what I wanted to do,” Blanton said. “When I come here it’s not a job for me, I love coming to work every day it’s not difficult for me. My heart is for these kids.”
After snacks, students start working on the homework they get at school. In addition, Moving Ahead gives students supplemental homework they can complete on site or at home.
Activities range from sewing to cooking to science projects. Students also learn about social skills, bullying and emotion management. The activities are intended to complement the topics children are learning in the classroom.
“We do a lot more one on one than the schools, since they have bigger classes,” Brooks said. “Teachers have interactive activities and team building so they make learning fun. They really incentivize kids and talk about the importance of homework and academics. They make it so that our kids want to learn.”
Brooks said almost 95 percent of the kids at Moving Ahead read at or above grade level. She said she plans to increase that percentage by the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
“I think that what we do with them on a day to day really does affect them. The love and encouragement that they get here really does make a difference because we really do care about these kids and I think they see that,” Blanton said.