New School Year Welcomes Growth and Learning at Erie House
September 28, 2014 | Chicago, IL
With September’s arrival, the After School Program at Erie House resumed its traditional hours and geared up for a new year of growth and learning. The program serves more than 180 school-age children across two sites, providing participants with a safe, nurturing after-school environment as well as tutoring, access to technology resources, wellness activities and literacy support.
Recent school age indicator results reported through the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative confirmed the success of the program: Last year, 92% of enrolled children either improved their GPA from the first semester to the second or maintained a GPA of 3.0 or higher over both semesters. This number was highest among the seven programs participating in the collaborative and represented a 19% increase from the previous year.
Program Director Valery Sheppard—known by all who are familiar with the program as simply “Miss Val”—attributes this success in part to the depth of relationships Erie House has been able to foster with families in the community.
“Some families have been in our program for at least seven years,” she said, pointing out that it’s not uncommon for her to have a handful of former After School participants on staff. “I’m most proud of the children who grow up and remember (Erie House) and come back to either work or volunteer at Erie.”
Academic success isn’t the only expected outcome of the After School Program. Sheppard’s staff also invests in the social and emotional wellbeing of kids enrolled in the program. To this end, 82% of participants assessed demonstrated a high level of social competency last year.
“Our children’s homework, grades and reading scores have continued to improve,” said Sheppard. “But I have also watched children really reach out to other children. They have a conversation and realize, ‘This kid is kind of cool, and I want to be his friend.’”
A majority of students enrolled in the program at 1347 W Erie St are able to walk to Erie House from nearby schools in the neighborhood. The remaining students are picked up by staff using vans. Erie’s second After School Program location is on site at Erie Elementary Charter School, and its participants are students at the school in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood.
Operating a healthy after-school program can be challenging, to say the least. Funding shortfalls, school closings, and family transiency are constant threats Sheppard and her staff must face. At the end of the day, however, the program continues to thrive. “I am proud that we are still here, still able to provide quality programming.”
For more information about donating to the program or getting involved as a volunteer, please visit www.eriehouse.org/after-school.
Database Administrator Katie VanderHeide contributed to this story.