MIDDLE SCHOOL ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
Westminsterís Middle School Enhancement Program is a unique partnership between the City and the Westminster School District. It offers 2,000 adolescents a strong reason to stay on campus after school - away from the streets. The programís annual funding allows the Cityís three middle schools to offer dozens of clubs, activities, sports tournaments and field trips designed to appeal to all student interests. Noontime activities and school-wide assemblies benefit the entire student body and help showcase the program.
The programís goal was not only to give students an opportunity to possibly develop some life-long hobbies, but also to provide an educational "spark" to students who were having trouble in a traditional academic setting. It was hoped that by learning quickly in a hands-on environment, or in movement oriented experiences, every type of student would feel welcome and successful.
2. When was the program created and why
In 1991, staff from the Community Services & Recreation Department and from the Westminster School District met to discuss the needs of middle school youth, both at lunchtime and after school. These sixth-through-eighth grade students were too old for any traditional day care or extended after school care programs, and were all too often "home alone" with few positive alternatives for using their time. Together, the City and the School District were seeking a diversion from the streets - a positive place to stay away from unsafe apartment complexes, street corners and gang enticements. They envisioned a program where all students, regardless of academic ability or ethnicity, would join together for positive interaction and socialization activities. The real challenges were to get youngsters to participate in clubs and activities, to provide students with an enjoyable connection to school, to take advantage of an opportunity to spend time with friends, and to participate in positive and relaxed interaction with teachers and instructors.
During the initial meeting between the School District and the City in 1991, it was noted that many of the public school teachers had been staying after school, volunteering their time for studentís activities. They often purchased program supplies from their own pockets. The teachers had been doing this for a number of years, and they were beginning to experience "burn out." The School Districtís contact stated that, if teachers were hired for anything other than teaching, they must be paid their hourly wages. This became no longer fiscally feasible.
At that time, the City stepped up to offer its services, recruiting and facilitating contract instructors and recreation leaders. Many of the teachers decided to continue their involvement in the program by working for the City for stipends. Thus began the merging of the best possible resources and personnel: professional teachers were being compensated for their time and expertise, and the services to the students were enhanced with the City supplying trained leaders for noon-time activities, special events and programs. The City undertook all administration of the programs, hiring staff, training of staff, and purchasing of program supplies and services. The District allowed their facilities to be used; thus ensuring that students had a comfortable, familiar environment.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness
Westminster students reflect a diverse community that is home to many disadvantaged families. More than 80 per cent of the students are from low-income households. Many are new immigrants from Mexico and Vietnam; nearly half are qualified as limited-English proficient. Incorporation of diversity in programs was essential, accompanied by the task of advertising in such a manner that parents would also feel that their children were in a safe place which would provide positive choices.
The keys to the programís success are basic: Focus on serving the studentsí needs, offer activities that are varied with the sole intention of appealing to the greatest number of students and drawing even the most apathetic student away from the local mini-mart parking lot and into a ball game, drama class or aerobic workout. By placing the youngsters first and foremost in program planning, the city and the School District are making a difference in taking back our youth by providing positive alternate choices for them and no longer allowing them to say, "There is never anything for us to do!" There is plenty to do! Positive, interesting and fun choices are theirs to make.
The Middle School Enhancement program is one of the most successful collaborative efforts ever devised by City and public school personnel. It could easily be replicated in every city.
4. How is the program financed?
Funding for this program is shared by the City and the Westminster School District. For the past seven years, the City has provided a total of $30,000 from General Fund and grant money. The School District matched the funding with their $30,000. Principals and program coordinators from the three Middle Schools and City staff meet on a regular basis to determine the best use of the funds. This process is extremely flexible according to the needs and desires of each individual school. Program itineraries are developed; keeping in mind at all times that the goal is to offer opportunities to meet the needs of students with a wide variety of ethnic and financial backgrounds. Awareness and this type of sensitivity are keys to programming strategy and success.
Because of the cultural diversity of the student population, students had sometimes faced incidences of prejudice which would often lead to poor self-esteem, or even hostilities between groups. Through the collaboration of resources and services, the City was able to obtain funding through the Mazda Corporation to pay for an extremely effective drama series. "STOP GAP" Theater Group performed their special one-act play, "Call Me By My Name." This particular drama focused on intercultural stresses and it culminated in an interactive discussion by all who attended. The innovative collaboration between the School District and the City is what caused Mazda to sponsor the program.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at allHow has the community responded to the program?
The Middle School Enhancement Program is student-driven and evaluated based on interest level and participation. Sign-ups for activities - from the chess club to weight lifting - are carefully monitored by school-site coordinators so that less popular clubs can be scrapped to make way for others. Students are surveyed often and are asked to fill out interest inventories yearly to help coordinators plan appealing programs. Students at Stacey School, for example, requested a cooking class that simmered each week in the schoolís Home Economics lab. This flexibility has been a major component in the program from inception. Membership in after school clubs and sports teams has increased from 950 students city-wide in 1991 to 1,400 this year.
Parents also provide valuable feedback. Westminster students, for the most part, come from families with working parents, some devoting time to two to three jobs. Many parents have voiced their appreciation that their children now have a positive place to stay after school during the hours parents simply cannot supervise. When possible, parents have also become personally involved in activities. One mother provides carpools to sports tournaments when buses are not available, and another recently asked in limited English if she could join Warner Schoolís line-dancing club. Dozens of parents have become devoted rooters at Westminsterís intramural sports tournaments. Evening performances by Staceyís Drama Club drew parents, grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles.
On an administrative level, Westminster City staff meet with the Middle School principals each semester to review Enhancement Program goals and successes and to fine-tune plans. City staff then prepares a year-end review each June for the City Council.
By sharing resources and crossing over the typical territorial boundaries of each entity, the collaboration has been a bounding success. Our goals were the same, as both the District and the City endeavored to serve and to save our youth from negative involvement after school. This collaboration provided the needed strength and resources to reach our shared goals.
Local businesses have offered support, encouraging use of their facilities for after school activities. In addition to all three schools participating in intramural play in the gym of the local Boys and Girls Club, bowling programs are offered within walking distance of one middle school and use is encouraged by the business owner. This type of cooperation from the community has added greatly to the program. Parents have become involved by assisting teachers either on their local campus or by supporting their schools in the "cheering section" at competition at the Boys and Girls Club, or by providing carpools for transportation.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.