A free after-school learning program for students at South Newton Elementary School recently opened. The program gives students access to tutors, educational tools and provides meals every day.
The Ascension Youth Center, run by the In My Father’s House community support services network, opened in early January.
The aim of the center is to give pupils extra support outside of school to help them with their homework and to tutor pupils in the areas where they have the most difficulty, as well as to provide a space where students can play and socialize, Tina McDowell, program director for In My Dad’s House, says. For now, class sizes have been capped at around 25 students, until the center can recruit more volunteers, she said.
McDowell is an outstanding retired children’s teacher with 20 years of teaching under her belt. Her favorite thing about helping out at the youth center is seeing the children improve, she said. Some of them would have struggled to settle in when they started coming to the center, but now they are eager to do the activities.
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Student manners and attitudes have improved since the program began, said Ivey Robinson, CEO of In My Father’s House. Students say “please” and “thank you”, help each other and respect each other’s space.
South Newton vice principal Erin Sims and the school’s guidance counselor suggested students for the center due to behavioral and academic difficulties. Sims said he has seen emotional, social, and academic improvements in students who participate in the program.
“After COVID hit, there were a lot of kids who were behind and that’s nationwide,” Sims said. “I want community in the schools. I think it’s important, especially in our region. We are a Title I school. Many of our families are underserved. I think it’s a huge help for us and I love that we take them (students) there and they (the center) take care of the rest.
At the center, students are divided into study groups based on their age and the areas in which they need help. After students finish their homework and lessons, they can enjoy free time. The center has an exercise mat on the floor where students can do gymnastics, a pool table, computers with educational games, basketball hoops, an art station and games. ‘a scene. There is a kitchen in the back where meals and snacks are prepared for the children.
Fifth graders Allyson Davis and Andrea Gonzalez said they love going to the center after school. McDowell helped them improve their math grades, especially with multiplication, they said. In addition to school help, the girls said they learned about good manners and how to control their emotions and stay calm in stressful situations.
Yontina Baldwin’s children attended a different daycare until the school told her about the Ascension Youth Center. Baldwin is a single mother with a full-time job. She said that at the daycare her children used to attend, they weren’t getting the extra one-on-one help they needed.
“I needed someone to help them with their homework, and then we were introduced to (center),” Baldwin said. “It’s a blessing for us to have.”