Rachael is from Georgetown, MA. She graduated from UMASS Dartmouth in 2012 and currently serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA because helping others is very important to her. After her service year, Rachael plans to embark on a career in the Public Health field. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors, specifically the beach.
I’m the type of person who needs to see change to measure its impact. No surprise then, doing indirect service has made it difficult to immediately see the personal impact of my work, sometimes leaving me with a feeling of underperformance. My VISTA year is slowly helping me gain patience with this concept. Working in the after school program at The Learning Community, a public charter school, is gradually teaching me that sometimes the most necessary long-term tasks, are the most important foundations to overall success.
The Learning Community is a K-8 public charter school located in Central Falls, RI. The school, lottery based, serves Pawtucket, Providence, and Central Falls students. Its mission is based on the idea that leadership is possible for everyone. Although almost all of the students face poverty, The Learning Community recognizes this is not a defeating barrier. Instead, the school emphasizes that literacy empowers every individual to have a voice, make a difference, and to be responsible community members.
The same holds true for The Learning Community’s after school program. Serving 1-5th graders, this program gives students a chance to continue their personal, social, and educational development in extended day time. Every day after school, students are given a free snack. They then attend an hour of fun, enriching activity programs. Whether its sports, cooking, arts and crafts, or music, every student participates in a program they are interested in. Finally, they have an hour of uninterrupted homework time, a perk that allows many of them to finish all of their homework before going home.
This regiment is run very smoothly. Achieving this, however, was not so simple. Financial constraints led to many major changes from previous years. This left my director, new to the job, with an uphill battle of reestablishing stability to the program. What we knew, however, was that the after school program should do one major thing: provide students with a reliable sanctuary. It is of utmost importance that our students feel welcome, safe, and open to experiencing new challenges and extending their learning.
Making this possible has, and continues to be, a long process. Long term steps to make the program sustainable have already been taken. Whether it’s reaching out for new partnerships, tracking attendance through a more efficient database, or creating new health and safety guides, these tasks are ongoing but will benefit the program for years to come.
Although this has been a slow process, it’s given me time to appreciate how necessary a strong foundation to any program is. It’s also helped me realize that my work is a part of a far greater goal than I even originally realized. As I observe other surrounding districts’ after school programs, I’m quickly learning other communities are very open and willing to help. It has been so refreshing and inspiring to see other communities excited to share their experiences, successes, struggles, and desires to collaborate. Pair this with a dedicated after school director and team at The Learning Community, and suddenly believing in greater change seems inevitable. Recognizing we all are on the same page, working together towards the overall success of after school programs for children everywhere, makes waiting for measureable change very much worth it.