The title of this post was inspired by the postscript Izaiah Markel noted in a letter he wrote to the President of the United States. He, along with his peers at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, wrote letters to their elected officials during the CIS After School Program at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts.
CIS After School Coordinator Phillip Hegwood initiated the letter writing project as a way for students to let their voices be heard, advocating in a constructive manner for something they feel passionate about: the importance of extending their learning day through after school supports and experiential learning. As the letters from officials start trickling in, he’s expanding on the writing project by asking students to reflect on the experience of writing the letters as well as discussing the responses they receive.
Associate Director of Site Services Michael Harrison points out that this project “is not only a creative approach to strengthening literacy skills but it boosts confidence. Learning to communicate with someone who can effect change builds confidence.” That, he says, is a “powerful lesson. It’s something our young people can carry into other aspects of their lives.”
Just what did Kayla, Izaiah, Zi’arra, Jesus, Whysper, Jazmin, Cruz, Renell, Tarqes, Grace, Lisandra, Taisia, Jasmine, Tiana, Navia, KaVon, Aniyah, Walter, Devin, Arielle, Akeelah, and Yousef want their elected officials to know about the importance of the CIS After School program? Here, in their own words pulled from their letters…
Students explain that after school provides a safe place to learn and grow.
“After school program is very important. That is because lots of kids don’t have a safe space to go after school, or a quiet workplace. After school provides that. It is from 2:20-5:30 p.m. here at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts…”
“Do you know about the after school program? The after school program is a class where you can do your job, have great teachers and students, a class that you can share and help people, and the after school program expects you to be a good person and no one will forget an after school program.”
“After school program is a great way for students to work on homework, to achieve better grades in school so we can go on to 7th grade…”
“The after school program provides a nice environment for us to meet new friends. After school program is a nice way to teach us how to do productive things together, and it teaches leadership skills. It also teaches housekeeping, and everyday useful skills for students.”
“They care for us and they watch over us and they keep us safe.”
Students share the benefits to their own growth.
“It made me a better person because we have art and it shows my talents/artistic abilities. After school gives me a lot of confidence in school.”
“…after school program helped me get smarter and improve my grades and study.”
“…[it] helped me with my homework and any problems I had at school at home (really any problems I had).”
“It helps me improve my grade in ELA (English Language Arts). I had a C- and since they have a big homework system I got a B+.”
“In after school I can talk to someone when I am mad or sad.”
“…and helps us talk to students if we’re too shy to talk. It even makes us feel at home.”
“It helps me focus throughout school, that’s why I love after school. They taught me that it’s okay to get stuff wrong in class. So now when the teacher calls on me in class I answer it with confidence even if I just guess. After school gives me every possibility and every chance.”
Students express appreciation for the CIS staff, partners, and volunteers.
“The coaches help us so much with our homework.”
“…they even teach us other languages!”
“…I can talk to someone when I am mad or sad.”
Students state facts about the benefits of being involved in CIS after school programs.
“…it helps students stay out of the streets and gangs. Research shows more than 70% of kids drop out due to drugs or early pregnancies.”
Students care about the younger students who are coming after them.
“Also I think it will help other kids who want or are going to be in program someday.”
“Please don’t let it end so that the new sixth graders next year will have the same opportunities as us.”
Students express themselves in honest and straight forward ways.
“Honestly, if I never went to the after school program I would just be at home playing video games and watching TV all day. I probably would not like my mom as much because she does not understand how to help me with my homework and we would fight about it. The after school program gives me an opportunity to eat dinner because there are nights where we don’t have any food in our house. We get free transportation so I can also play sports. My mom gets some sleep so she can go to work at night, and that helps the economy.”
“I will be honest, I don’t know who you are but I know you are African American and it makes me happy that there is a black person in power to help make decisions, so please fund after school programs.”
Students urge their officials to continue funding after school programming.
“So I hope you think about this…”
“I hope you can see how important it is to have after school.”
“Students will be happy and we will all remember you did the right thing.”
“So can you try to help us?”
PS. Students pepper their letters with P.S.’s.
P.S. Please don’t get rid of after school programs.
[To Mayor Hopewell] “P.S. I saw you at the chili cook out.”
“P.S. We <3 After School!!!”
[Note: <3 = love]
CIS After School serves students in 15 after school sites—11 elementary and 4 middle school sites. CIS After School is available in the Kalamazoo Public Schools thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.