Program Profile: East Aurora 21st CCLC
East Aurora 21st CCLC offers a range of academic enrichment activities while also creating an atmosphere that promotes social-emotional growth. Serving roughly 180 students at two middle schools and one high school, the program prepares attendees for high school and then college and the workforce. East Aurora attributes its success to activities that are aligned with standards and the school day while embracing the innovation and creativity needed to engage adolescent students and their families.
Students inspect the results of a science experiment.
Close collaboration with the school day is one of the ways that the program supports students’ academic progress. All instructors, including those from community-based organizations, are asked to report how their activities align with the new Illinois Learning Standards. In addition, the program has developed a tool that teachers and afterschool staff can use to share homework assignments and discuss student progress. “The tool was created so teachers could communicate with our academic coordinators,” says Dr. Karen Morris, the academic coordinator at Simmons Middle School. “This is to ensure that our program was aware of what academics should be focused on.” In addition to facilitating communication among afterschool and school-day staff, this tool has also helped students develop a clearer understanding of academic expectations.
Community service has been an important part of the East Aurora 21st CCLC. Here students are picking up trash as part of a service project.
While the three sites at East Aurora offer different activities at their respective locations, they are all proud of the ways they have worked to support students’ academic and social-emotional needs and to build community. In addition to offering homework help and tutoring, all three sites work with community-based organizations to offer hands-on, project-based activities such as science demonstrations, cooking, and fitness activities. The program also partners with local colleges, universities, and vocational unions to give students exposure to different college and career opportunities.
Staff at all three sites have worked hard to involve families, and their efforts have been rewarded with an increase in attendance at family events since the program began operation in early 2013. “Our biggest success is parent involvement and education,” says Vickie Thornton, adult staff at Simmons Middle School. “Once parents were involved, students were more engaged.”
Achievement means focusing on the whole child. East Aurora partners with a community-based organization to provide fitness activities in the afterschool program.
At the high school level, the afterschool program has helped incoming freshmen adjust to high school more easily. “Our students had huge success in the transition from middle school to high school,” says Ryan Koslovsky, site coordinator at East Aurora High School. “They were able to meet new friends and teachers. . . . It’s always awesome to see my kids in a group, going down the hallway as true friends.”
Students have learned more about their neighborhoods through community service activities. This summer, for example, students volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit organization that collects and ships food to malnourished children around the world. The students participated in training and then packed dried food to be shipped. At the end of the summer, several students cited this experience as their favorite field trip, with some remarking that it was a new experience that gave them a greater appreciation for their own families and opportunities. “Our priority is to have the kids be proud of being part of a group, helping them take ownership in our organization,” says Sandy Diaz, site coordinator at Waldo Middle School. “Student achievement falls in place when students are proud and willing to work hard for themselves.”