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New York City
December 2002

Afterschool Educational Options Are Essential for Our Children
By Matilda Raffa Cuomo & Marnie Ponce-White

The recent aggressive budget cuts continue to affect the infrastructure of our school system on both administrative and academic levels. As educators, the increase in accountability and the emphasis on standardized math and reading scores to measure the success of the quality of education in the New York City public schools leave little, if any room, for the arts, sciences and human development. Who then is responsible for providing our children with a well-rounded education if day-school educators are consumed with the monumental task of making sure their students score well on standardized tests?

Traditionally, the after-school setting was a place for children to participate in a variety of activities that they might not have had an opportunity to experience if they were home. Community-based organizations that were at the forefront of after-school planning like the YMCAs of Greater New York gained popularity from their basketball camps, hockey leagues and arts and crafts classes. However, today after-school activities have become essential to complete the necessary work of education that is not done in the day-school classroom. One important question remains: how can we collaborate to utilize the needed after-school programs while assuring maximum efficiency and competence in the instructors?

Bank Street College has taken an active role in creating a series of workshops for after-school educators designed to help meet the needs of the after-school programs. Reflecting on the extensive work that Bank Street’s Department of Continuing Education has done with after-school programs through New York City over the past three years, three basic content areas were identified as needing development: curricula, integration of the arts, and creating effective learning environments for the diverse population that the programs serve.

Workshops offered by Bank Street College’s Division of Continuing Education that integrate the arts and sciences include: “Music Therapy,” “Woodworking,” “Instrument Making and Playing,” and “Architecture,” to name a few. The workshop for “Literacy and the Arts” in two sessions explores the wonderful world of books, poetry, and the arts for Elementary, Middle, and High School students. Participants will learn how to identify and make content connections with reading, writing, and the arts; and learn how to design a literacy curriculum that integrates music, movement, sculpture, drawing, and architecture to help support and enhance a student’s experience.

Albert Einstein said it best, “The purpose of education is to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” That is the ultimate challenge that educators, policy makers, parents, and community members must confront head on when addressing the needs of our children.

Bank Street College is proud of the support it is providing, as are many other not-for-profit organizations that make their own specific contribution to the daunting effort to meet the educational challenges faced by today’s children. One of them is Mentoring USA. Mentoring USA’s specific emphasis is providing children at-risk with one-to-one mentoring for a one-year commitment as mentors by devoted, trained adults who complement the parental presence in the child’s life and are a great support for the teacher. In addition to assisting the child with the regular day-school curriculum, Mentoring USA’s mentors and their mentees participate in a whole range of after-school activities designed to supplement their classroom studies, including reading books of ethnic heroes learning about other cultures in order to understand and deal with global diversity and resolving conflict resolution.Thanks to Mentoring USA’s BRAVE Juliana program (Bias-Related Anti-Violence Education) all the mentors are retrained to help our youth gain an appreciation of their own heritage and respect for people around them.

Often these activities involve cooperative efforts with partner institutions like Strang Cancer Prevention Center’s initiative, “Healthy Children Healthy Futures.” Mentoring USA will have programs in all five boroughs dealing with the problem of obesity and primary health care. The Dare to Dream component of Mentoring USA provides exposure for our mentees to learn about future careers, and the Juliana Valentine McCourt Children’s Education Fund fosters harmony, peace, and understanding among children of the world. Communities in Schools assists Mentoring USA to expand our volunteer recruitment of mentors for at-risk students.

The special value of the Mentoring USA approach is the bond developed by the one-to-one relationship unavailable in most classrooms but essential to Mentoring USA mentoring. Nothing helps educate a child more or better than the sure knowledge that his mentor’s only purpose in the relationship is to guide and counsel his mentee. No wonder mentoring is considered by General Colin Powell who led America’s Promise, and other great Americans, to be one of the most effective support mechanisms for children at-risk in today’s America.#

Matilda Cuomo is Founder and Chair, Mentoring USA. (www.mentoringusa.org, musa@mentoringusa.org)

Marnie Ponce White is the Coordinator of Professional Development for After-School Educators, Division of Continuing Education, Bank Street College of Education.

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Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2002.