In Portland, many children lack access to both before and after school as well as summer programming. LearningWorks program director, Amy Pichette says “some sort of after school enrichment for every student is important.” A national study regarding after school programs supports this, showing over 40% of students who attended a 21st Century Community Learning Center, such as LearningWorks, improve their reading and math grades. Amy and her staff work relentlessly to provide the best quality after-school programming for kids who “usually cannot access the resources their peers regularly do.”
The LearningWorks mission –to recognize the potential in everyone and give kids the chance to master the basics— is thread throughout the entire program. Amy states, “the programming gives the children a chance to explore, find an activity that sparks their interest, and experience engaged learning when many of them are performing below grade level.”
The after school life of a LearningWorks child on any given day consists of group meetings to discuss positive character traits, engineering projects, engaging curriculum, art creations with Maine College of Art, or a Lego activity. 92% of LearningWorks children report that they enjoy attending programming. When you walk into a LearningWorks classroom, this becomes clearly evident with kids eager to explain their newest, creative project or show-off their own Lego invention.
The results go even further as teachers report 88% of LearningWorks students made a year’s progress in literacy with math progress close behind. Accompanying this increase in grade level performance, teachers overwhelmingly notice a shift in confidence – “kids enthusiastically participate in class as well as extra curricular activities like the talent show” says Amy.
Site director for LearningWorks at Presumpscot Elementary, Cheryl Morin, also identifies the increase in confidence as a huge benefit of programming. Every Monday Cheryl’s staff go over “Player Traits,” established by the school, as a reminder and encouragement for the kids to display strong character traits such as honesty and responsibility.
From activities such as this, along side engaging curriculum, she notices students “stepping up, making better choices, taking on new projects and speaking up,” confirming Amy’s description of why this programming is so important and impactful. As Cheryl puts it, the kids develop abilities to advocate for themselves.
Through LearningWorks participation with Starting Strong, Amy finds herself continually expanding resources to provide for programming to enhance the experience for each kid. “Before Starting Strong, I didn’t have partnerships with places like the Portland Public Library or the Boys & Girls Club,” she says. Now her summer programming involves activities such as trips to the library. Starting Strong is grateful for partners like LearningWorks who give kids the extra help they need to be performing at grade level.