Program Profile: BUILD 21st CCLC

BUILD Inc., a community-based organization (CBO) in Chicago, operates the 21st CCLC program serving 50–60 students at Wendell Phillips Academy High School. To support student achievement, the afterschool program focuses on whole-child education and reflects the CBO’s strengths-based approach to engaging at-risk youth through prevention, intervention, and helping students prepare for the future. In addition, the program offers academic enrichment, tutoring and homework help, and other enrichment activities. A variety of BUILD programming activities are available to the afterschool program. The 21st CCLC staff takes advantage of BUILD’s services to provide leadership development and goal-setting programs, and the CBO makes trained staff available to work with students who have experienced trauma. By helping students develop positive behaviors and enhance leadership skills, the afterschool program fosters the conditions for learning that allow students to succeed in school and in their communities.

Phillips serves a high-risk population, and the 21st CCLC is often affected by violence in the school and community. The BUILD team has worked hard to ensure the 21st CCLC program is a place that offers students physical and emotional safety. At the beginning of the school year, program leadership seeks input from students to set norms and expectations for behavior and programming. “By encouraging students to understand and utilize the power of their voice and the positive impact they can make in their school and their community, they are able to take ownership of their actions and rethink their narratives,” says Program Coordinator Deonna Hart. As a result, staff and students have come to see the 21st CCLC as a neutral zone where students are encouraged to set aside their differences and maintain a respectful atmosphere. Students have become the ambassadors for these expectations; a core group of students who are committed to the program encourage new participants to adopt the program norms so that they can continue to enjoy the respectful and supportive environment as well as the programming.

In addition to fostering a supportive environment at the school, the 21st CCLC also provides an opportunity for students to explore their community, and beyond, through project-based learning and field trips. For example, some of the students who attend the 21st CCLC got involved in public speaking classes hosted by BUILD. Students were so committed to the program that they took public transportation across town to participate in the classes and competition. Some of the students even served as speakers at a community event that the organization hosted. “Students gained a stronger sense of self and a greater appreciation of their personal story and the value of shared life experiences,” says Hart. She also notes that navigating public transportation was an accomplishment for many of the students. “This experience allowed them not only to see people and areas they had never seen before, but helped dispel the myth that they have to be afraid when traveling beyond Bronzeville [the neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, where Phillips is located].”

The 21st CCLC also aims to engage families in its mission. “We understand that while we may be doing an amazing job with our youth at school...they do leave us to go home where we are not physically present to help reinforce the things we have discussed during our sessions,” says Hart. Family engagement events are planned to be fun but also have a theme to engage participants in reflection and discussion. For example, an upcoming adults-only “Paint and Sip” workshop provides non-alcoholic beverages and refreshments and a fun lesson on basic painting techniques. Integrated into the activity is a focus on community issues and how they affect students and their families.

There are several indicators that the program plays an important role in the students’ lives. Teachers see the value of the program and often refer students who they think would benefit from the program. Many of the other activities that take place at Phillips after school are sports or offer stipends or credit recovery opportunities for students. Hart notes that the students who attend BUILD 21st CCLC are there because they want to be there. “They come day after day and stay at school until 7 p.m., making for an almost 12-hour day for some of them, and they love it.”

For 21st CCLC programs that seek to address the whole child in their programming, Hart reminds grantees, “Don’t sell the kids short or take for granted that they can or cannot meet or reach the standards you set. I am a proponent of meeting the youth where they are and using their life experiences to help validate the skills they already have.”