South Kearns Elementary is the newest Community School in the Promise Kearns pipeline. Since becoming a Promise Community School, South Kearns Elementary has added numerous strategic supports geared towards helping students gain proficiency in literacy, a major priority for South Kearns. One strategy that was discussed to help meet literacy goals was out-of-school time and afterschool programming. Principal Dr. Julie Lorentzon made her expectations very clear that the program is not going to be glorified babysitting, but rather a strategic program where students receive high-quality tutoring and re-teaching of what they are learning during the school day.
Through the work of United Way’s Director of Elementary Learning, Stephanie Rokich, and Grant Specialist Nancy Major, United Way applied for and was awarded a Federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) Grant to add financial capacity to the UWSL Promise Community Schools for the next three years. Because of this grant, South Kearns was able to expand afterschool programming from two days a week for forty-five minutes to every day for two hours. A computer lab is also now open every morning, Monday through Thursday, before school. We also now have a school choir which practices two days a week before school. The CCDF Grant money for the afterschool program enables the school to use its Title 1 funds in different ways to support student learning.
UWSL and South Kearns have also developed a partnership with Kelly Riding at Salt Lake County Youth Services to manage and oversee the operation of the afterschool program. Since Developing this partnership, South Kearns has hired Afterschool Program Coordinator, Talisha Thomas, as well as eight South Kearns teachers to run the academic hour, and three Youth Development Leaders to help with tutoring and enrichment activities for students.
Ms. Thomas said, “Being a part of the afterschool program is a rewarding experience. The program provides opportunities to help children excel in school, reach their potential, increase their confidence in learning, and provide enriched experiences that the children might not otherwise have. I recently asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. One particular child perked right up, with big eyes and said “I want to be like Alexander Fleming, he invented penicillin and changed the world of medicine.” Being surrounded by such caring and supportive staff has made this program possible.”
The South Kearns afterschool program has capacity for sixty students, and within the first week of the application process, we were over capacity with a waiting list. Even though the program is in its inception here at South Kearns, we are already noticing a difference in attitude and behavior of the students enrolled in the program, as well as an increased understanding of the Community School model from the school and the parents. Through this type of understanding, South Kearn’s goals to help students become more proficient in literacy, while enriching the lives of our students, becomes more realistic.