News from the Field: Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation Celebrates Black History Month

Based on an interview with Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation 21st CCLC leadership.

This February, Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation 21st CCLC celebrated Black History Month with activities at its three elementary school sites. Staff integrated the activities into existing programming so that students could build on what they were already learning and doing in afterschool. For example, students who had joined the program’s tap dancing club in the fall studied famous African American tap dancers for Black History Month. They read biographies about the dancers’ lives and studied the eras during which the dancers lived. Students then learned and performed some of the dancers’ routines, having a greater understanding of the experiences and events that shaped the dancers’ work. Drama club participants researched the civil rights movement. They then gave a presentation on key figures from the movement and their ideologies, and reenacted a civil rights demonstration. Other activities included a drum corps and a dance troop that studied and performed traditional African dances with cultural garb.  

Staff and students at each site held a celebration at their respective schools and invited family and community members to attend. To complete the celebration at the end of February, students from the three sites presented together at a culminating event at Simeon High School,  the 21st CCLC's high school site. Because Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation 21st CCLC is a new grantee, the activities and culminating events provided an opportunity for the afterschool program to showcase the 21st CCLC and its services to families and community members.  

The Black History Month activities showed how a 21st CCLC can support both school and community goals. For example, in studying historical figures and events for Black History Month, students were exposed to social studies standards in the areas of history and civics. In the area of social and emotional learning, they learned how to study different perspectives and express their own feelings about events and situations. Program staff also aim to align activities with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation’s mission of community revitalization, of which education is a central tenent.  

The 21st CCLC’s project director, Ray Thompson, noted that staffing has been crucial to the program’s early endeavors like the Black History Month program. Mr. Thompson reports that it is important that the program “Have strong site coordinators who are really familiar with school culture and understand what they can do and pull off for the community.”