Through a partnership with Sunrise of Philadelphia and Fleisher Art Memorial, students of all ages from across South Philly celebrated Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, at the historic art institution. The various activities, which weaved together Mexican literacy and arts, explored more than one layer of the loss of a loved one. Whether drafting a poem or crafting tissue-paper marigolds, the celebration was a special installment of the monthly “Our Stories” events, a partnered program with Fleisher and Sunrise of Philadelphia. “Our Stories, while it’s about learning about art and literacy, the literacy aspect is also about learning about how to speak to your neighbor, really,” said Aja Beech, the arts integrated literacy coordinator for Sunrise of Philadelphia for the Fleisher partnership. “And I think, in these times, so many things are strained, especially within populations of people who have immigrated here.”

Come fall 2019, Sam Houston High School in San Antonio Independent School District will operate a new school-within-a-school focused on cybersecurity education. Cyber P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) at Sam Houston High School will be the city’s first P-TECH campus and aims to open with a class of 150 freshmen. The P-TECH program is a national, industry-specific educational model the State Legislature approved for use in Texas schools in 2017. The model allows students to earn a high school diploma, associate degree, certifications, and obtain work-based training in specific career fields over a span of four to six years.

During the summer after eighth grade, Archika Dogra, a high school junior at the Interlake High School in Bellevue, Washington, signed up for her very first computer science camp. As one of only two girls in a program of 30 people, she faced many barriers that prevented her from fully participating in the program. Archika knew that there had to be a solution for what she was going through. After this experience, Archika resolved that she needed to do something to help increase diversity in the STEM environments around her; she wanted to make sure that other students that are traditionally underrepresented in the field would not be left feeling the way she had –underappreciated, isolated and voiceless. Two years later, along with two other girls, Archika started The EduSTEM Initiative with the goal of leveling the playing field in STEM education.

When Mubarik Ismaeli approached him three-and-a-half years ago for help securing a new scoreboard for Willie Stargell Field in Homewood, Derrick Tillman thought he was thinking too small. “We began to talk about the project and I thought that just wasn’t enough,” said Tillman, president and CEO of Bridging the Gap Development. “I knew Homewood needed the best of the best.” So the two Westinghouse High alumni dreamed up an ambitious plan to build a new multisport field and community gathering space. Their persistence was rewarded recently when city leaders and Pittsburgh native, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin announced a $14 million public-private partnership to rehabilitate the field. The money will come from various sources, including HCS, the city and state, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and Indianapolis-based insurance company Group1001.

While afterschool and summer learning programs are largely funded by parent fees, the public funding at the local, state, and federal level is critical. Therefore, the 2018 election will have an impact on existing programs and the prospect of additional support for programs. Afterschool was an issue in many campaigns, including the Senate race in Pennsylvania. Changes in representatives are across the board, from House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to state level, which will have results for afterschool.

Could great afterschool education become the model for the school day of the future? Schools have requirements that afterschool programs do not. But if afterschool programs build innovative learning experiences in STEM or other content areas that young people gravitate to and even love, the answer to this question should be an emphatic “Yes.” The boundaries between afterschool and school are already softening. Many schools share a focus on exploration, hands-on activities and group work, and afterschool programs often take responsibility for enriching academic learning. Can we build a school day that is founded on the idea of the whole child, identity development and the exploration of how the world works? Can that happen in environments that do not constrain students to the inside of buildings? And can students participating in this new, “flexible school” show real academic gains?

PSAYDN at Center for Schools and Communities
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