It’s fall, and everyone is back at school, so I decided to devote this blog post to telling you all a little more about the kids in St. Vincent de Paul’s after-school program at the Family Success Center (FSC). I spent an afternoon hanging out with the participants and interviewing them to learn more about what they think of the Center and what it brings to the community.
The purpose of the FSC’s after-school program is to help students in grades K-8 and their families achieve their highest potential. St. Vincent de Paul recognizes that people living in areas like our neighborhood, where widespread poverty is an issue, may not have access to the resources necessary to become self-sufficient, productive members of their community. Having a quiet place to study, a stable home, and nutritious meals, are things that many of us would not consider advantages; but imagine how hard it would be to succeed in school without them? The goal of the FSC is to meet some of these needs in our community so that our kids have a better shot at overcoming poverty.
When I asked Ma-kayla, a 4th-grader at the FSC, what her favorite thing about coming to the after-school program is, she immediately mentioned the homework help program. Cordaria, a 2nd-grade student, echoed her sentiment: “The summer programs helped prepare me for school,” she said.
The adults I talked to agreed that the FSC plays a valuable role in teaching students skills that will help them be successful as adults. “[The after-school program] is a good program. It teaches kids manners, brings them together, and helps them with homework. I wish that it had existed when she was little,” says Deanette, a resident of our family housing program, casting a glance at her teenage daughter.
“Bringing people together” is a common theme at the FSC. Third-grade student Jaseline told me enthusiastically that she loved coming to the FSC after school because she has made friends here. Community building extends far beyond the participants. Parents are encouraged to engage with the programs by volunteering to work with the kids each semester. Adult residents of our housing programs, such as Deanette, who was manning the front desk when I spoke to her, regularly give their time to help program run smoothly.
There is a well-known proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child; well, it takes a city to raise the 40 who spend weekday afternoons at the FSC. In addition to the SVDP staff and parents, St. Vincent de Paul draws caring volunteers from local high schools and universities.
We also partner with organizations around the state to provide a variety of enrichment programs for the students. Just this fall, the kids are: learning to cook with the help of an instructor from the University of Kentucky Extension Service; developing their creativity with local artist and art therapist Darcie Taggart; getting fit with Cardio Kids; exploring STEM as they solve mysteries with the web-based program CSI Virtual Reality; and designing their own video games with the help of Bloxels, a hands-on design kit and app that allows students to create their own video games including characters and objectives.
I was happy to hear that, for the most part, the kids say that our Family Success Center is a fun, safe place that benefits them in a variety of ways.
The negative feedback? The kids say that “[students] should be able to use their cell phones all the time everywhere.” I am pretty sure that last point runs counter to our goal of providing a distraction free environment… but kids can dream!