News From the Field: Meridian CUSD 101 21st CCLC

Meridian Community Unified School District (CUSD) 101 21st CCLC works to help students succeed in school through academic enrichment, but the program also aims to provide opportunities that they may not have in school or in their communities. Pulaski County, where the 21st CCLC is located, has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state, and nearly 100% of the district’s students come from low-income families. To expose students to a variety of learning experiences, the 21st CCLC provides a range of afterschool enrichment activities as well as chances to explore their community.

The 21st CCLC’s 2017 summer school program is one example of the program’s broad approach to enrichment. School-day staff provided academic enrichment in the morning, and students were then able to choose from a range of extracurricular activities in the afternoon. Some of the activities included an arts program with violin, guitar, piano, choir, and theater. Some students learned career skills through courses in basic auto repair and 3D printing and improved social-emotional learning by participating in conflict resolution classes. “These are just some of the opportunities the students would not have if they did not come to the 21st CCLC enrichment program,” says project director Debra Houston.

On Fridays, students concluded the week with a field trip. Some field trips were local excursions to activities like basketball games or movies, while others were to the zoo, botanical gardens, or science center, which were in St. Louis, Missouri, some two hours away from the district. These trips provided enrichment for students who otherwise might not have the opportunity to visit these sites and also offered incentives for students to participate in the program. The program also provided breakfast and lunch for the students who attended.

A focus on whole-child enrichment has continued into the 2017–18 school year. The afterschool program continues to offer homework help and academic enrichment, as well as a variety of activities. This school year, the program has taken a new approach to staffing, hiring retired teachers in the community to provide academic enrichment. Houston notes that the program also supports student achievement in school through attendance, since students must attend school to participate in afterschool activities. “The students enjoy the afterschool program, so they are willing to come to school so they can participate,” says Houston.