Monday, October 5, 2015

What are 21st Century Community Learning Centers

In July 2014, Maine Family Resource Center (MFRC) was awarded a five year grant to provide hands-on, engaging, and relevant extended day and summer programming at Houlton Southside School, Hodgdon High School, and Mill Pond School through the establishment and continuation of 21st Century Community Learning Centers.  These programs are better known as the After School Programs (ASP). 

Now in the second year of their grants, these After School Programs continue to provide opportunities for students to work on their homework assignments, engage in fun activities that build social/emotional skills, promote physical movement, extend the school day learning through enrichment activities (such as science or technology programs), while stimulating family and community involvement.  Students travel to visit museums and attend theatrical performances, learn about healthy eating and safety in all areas of life, and engage in community service.  

Maine Department of Education states that "the purpose of Maine's 21st Century Learning Centers program is to establish or extend academic support and enrichment opportunities...linked to the local School Administrative Units (SAU's)...aligned with the system of Maine Learning Results."  These centers must provide a "range of high-quality services to support student learning and development, including tutoring and mentoring....  The use of funds is to provide help students, particularly students who attend low-performing schools.  The purpose is to offer a broad array of additional services, programs, and activities, such as youth development activities, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, art, music, and recreation programs, technology education programs, and character education programs, that are designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program of participating students."

District 70 in Hodgdon runs their two programs as "all inclusive," all students K to 12 may participate.  Houlton, District 29 (grades 3-5), focuses only on those students who are low performing, as determined by standardized test scores.   Grant monies are designated for these low performing students.  However, Hodgdon District has chosen to budget money so that all of their children may attend and receive the benefits of the ASP.

Previously, ASP's were designed as a safe place for students to spend their out-of-school time.  Now 21st Century Learning Programs have built on the "safe place" foundation, adding an intensive drive to see students improve academically, grow socially and emotionally, and develop realistic goals for their future.  MFRC wants to see students leave their programs with a sense of responsibility, a confidence that allows them to try new tasks, and a knowledge of their place in the world around them.