ICC provides After-School programs at ICC’s Community Center at 432 Lafayette Street, at ICC’s Early Learning Center at 1 New York Avenue, and at ICC’s Family Friendly Center at Hawkins Street School. The program at the Community Center is a fee for service program, the Family Friendly Center is a free program,
The Ironbound After-School Programs service 200 children at these sites: ICC’s Community Center (80 students), ICC’s Children’s Center (60 students), and Hawkins St. School (60 students). All children attend Newark Public Schools in the Ironbound and are in Grades K-8. During the summer, ICC operates a full day Summer Arts and Recreation Program for 80 children at ICC’s Community Center.
ICC’s after-school programs operate daily 3-6 pm. Students are picked up by staff at their respective schools or, in the case of Hawkins, transition smoothly within the building from the school day to the extended day. Both procedures – picking up and transitioning within the school – have been in operation for years; their success and smoothness are the product of good practices and solid relationships with school staff. As noted previously, the programs at our Community Center and Children’s Center accommodate school holidays and early dismissal.
After-School Programs provide academic support as well as enrichment activities. In recent years, teachers and social workers in our programs and in the local schools are encountering more children and families with multiple needs. This is not surprising given the economy and vulnerable populations we are serving. The need for services in the community is apparent. Ironbound is a historically immigrant enclave: 64% of the nearly 50,000 residents are foreign-born; one-third have arrived in the last 15 years primarily from Central and South America; 82% speak a language other than English at home; 25% live in poverty; and 55% of adults have not completed high school.
The need in the Hawkins School neighborhood of 7,500 people is even more striking: a per capita income of $8,288 and 57% of adults having less than a High School diploma. More than 500 families live in low-income housing, many with intolerable conditions and plagued by gangs.
We also know that:
- A majority of the children in our after-school programs are from single-parent families.
- While children’s language and literacy needs are substantial, behavioral and mental health needs are increasing and local schools have too few resources to meet the need.
- Children at Hawkins St. School especially feel alienated in almost every sense of “community” – from family to classroom – and, unsurprisingly, exhibit low self-esteem, attitude and behavioral challenges, and low aspirations
ICC’s programs have been designed by staff, partners and stakeholders, including students and parents, to address children’s needs and create a sense of community. Providing a safe and connecting haven sets the stage for improved learning and academic achievement as well as stronger relationships, stronger self-esteem, and improved attitudes and behavior. Additionally, our Family Success Centers provide supportive wrap around social services to the children’s families that improve family stability and parenting practices.
Each day is typically divided into three parts: snack, homework, and enrichment.
Activities are designed around student needs, are aligned with the school day, and aim to provide a sense of leadership, civic responsibility, and strengthening of academic skills so that the students have a stronger sense of self-worth and a greater opportunity to succeed. Student groupings are never larger than 20 students, and we maintain a 10:1 student to adult ratio to maximize attention and quality. A strong director and site coordinators ensure solid program leadership. .
Activities are led by ICC staff who include college students, local artists, social workers, environmentalists and civic leaders, and community residents. They are positive role models and bring a passion as well as expertise for their particular work that is shared with students. Artists, such as Kevin Sampson, infuse the students with the inspiration to imagine beyond their little world as well as providing them with new technical skills. Environmentalists, such as Cynthia Mellon engage the students in neighborhood truck counting and air monitoring and Emily Turonis in community gardening and environmental justice education, bringing science, math, civics, and leadership to life in a holistic – and surreptitious – way. Likewise, in activities like playwriting, chess, and dance, students can grow in ways they do not initially even realize, but immensely enjoy. In all activities students learn to respect each other and work together in teams.
In addition to enrichment activities, student needs, as well as parent demands, require the program to provide daily academic assistance, typically in the form of homework help. Literacy and language development are particular needs in a community where English is typically the second family language and educational attainment among parents is very low. Well-trained college students are the primary group leaders during this time. While NJ After 3 funding was available, we partnered with Hawkins School to have Hawkins teachers provide the academic component of the program every day; we aim to continue this model.
Lastly, ICC has had the benefit of having MSW counselors or interns on staff, typically through partnering organizations like the Mental Health Association of Essex County, to help address the needs of children. Students are often referred to our program by local schools precisely because of this component.
For enrichment, students typically have choices among the activities that they help to design through ongoing assessments. The following are some examples of after-school activities.
- Art. With a focus on Arts & Culture, this explores the child’s creativity and allows the children to view the world around them and explore different cultures and traditions.
- Youth Leadership. With a focus on Civic Engagement & Leadership, this component engages students in meaningful service while offering leadership skills. This component is only offered to the older students.
- Capoeira. With a focus on both Health & Fitness and Arts & Culture, this consists of music, dance, athletic movements, martial arts and combat theories all together. Students are taught the history of Capoeira as well as the music and dance moves.
- Dance. With a focus on both Health & Fitness and Arts & Culture, students are taught different types of dance: modern, Hip-Hop, Ballroom, Salsa, Praise dancing, Flag dancing. All dances incorporate many fitness components using an artistic state of mind.
- Sports – Kid Fit and Gym. With a focus on Health & Fitness as well as sportsmanship (social skills), this provides increased physical activity and supports knowledge of healthy lifestyle practices and attainment of new skills in sports.
- Financial Literacy. With a focus on Life & Career Skills, this engages students in the understanding of business operations as well as everyday life. Students learn how to budget and save money, while developing their math skills.
- Debate. With a focus on Civic Engagement & Leadership and Life & Career Skills, students explore debatable options of choices in life, such as peer pressure, building self esteem, hygiene, proper grooming, and how to become responsible young adults.
Through these activities, we aim to realize program objectives, including students demonstrating an increase in their academic achievement scores in comparison to their grade level, a greater sense of self-esteem as it relates to their pre- and post- self-assessment tools, and behavioral improvement based on a self-assessment chart and staff observations.