The statewide organization, Afterschool Alliance, has found that afterschool programs in South Carolina, but also nationwide, keep kids safe, boost student success and help parents keep their jobs. It has been proven that kids achieve more, productivity goes up and risky behaviors go down.
Afterschool Alliance found that 73 percent of South Carolina parents say that their child’s afterschool program helped them keep their job; 68 percent say that their child’s afterschool program excited their child about learning and another 73 percent say their child’s afterschool program reduced the likelihood that they would engage in risky behavior.
Unfortunately, the Afterschool Alliance organization also found that over 130,000 children are alone or unsupervised after school in South Carolina, and that although there are over 98,000 children currently enrolled in an afterschool program, over 330,000 are on the waiting list.
The need far outweighs what is available. Luckily in Charleston County, the Kaleidoscope program, with the Charleston County School District, has made considerable strides, especially in the past five years.
“We are serving more Title 1 students than ever before. And we have every intention of offering more programs and increasing our current programs,” Jason A. Sakran, director of expanded learning (Kaleidoscope), says.
Kaleidoscope is an afterschool program offered to Charleston Country School District elementary school students, which is fee-based. CCSD utilizes a grant called, the 21st Century Afterschool Grant, which offers the program free to low-income schools. Kaleidoscope also offers summer programs and school enrichment programs, such as soccer, chess, dance, art, foreign language, music and lacrosse – just to name a few.
Sakran says that there are currently 10 elementary schools, out of 45, paid for by the 21st Century Afterschool Grant, making their Kaleidoscope tuition free for parents. The other 35 are regular programs with fees starting around $75 a week. There are some opportunities for parents to apply for income-based tuition on a sliding scale as well.
Sakran says that about 20 percent (roughly 5,000 children) of CCSD K-5 students attend Kaleidoscope currently, but there is a waiting list. “We want to expand the program so that we can serve all the students who need it,” he says.
Sakran recognizes that the after school timeframe is crucial for many students. “Parents aren’t home and these kids are going to empty houses,” he says. “Those are dangerous hours. Kaleidoscope has helped to get these kids engaged in academics, enrichment programs and to become better communicators.” He says they have also found that their overall school attendance has gone up with kids who attend Kaleidoscope. “They are ready to learn the next day and are better prepared,” he says.
Kaleidoscope lasts until 6 p.m. and the students are given a healthy snack. Sakran says that the Title 1 schools have a free dinner given to the students as well. Homework help is offered on some of the days during the week, but that they only help the children get started since homework is supposed to be completed at home.
The enrichment programs are offered at an additional fee, but are also open to other students who are not enrolled in the regular Kaleidoscope program. Wanda Wright-Sheats, principal of Charleston Progressive Academy, says their chess enrichment program with Kaleidoscope has really taken off.
The team is headed to their final tournament in April. “Chess offers critical thinking and strategy skills,” she says. “We are so happy to have it offered through our Kaleidoscope program.”
Wright-Sheats says she likes to expose the Kaleidoscope students to new opportunities. “I’ve had basket weavers come and speak to the program and we’ve taught drumming, karate and tennis in the past.”
Charleston Progressive Academy has about 290 students. She says that 75 to 100 attend Kaleidoscope. They have three teachers providing instructional assistance, which increased to eight certified teachers in May.
Her favorite part about Kaleidoscope is the safe atmosphere it provides for kids. “It’s great. Parents don’t have to worry that their kids are safe and in a high-quality academic and social afterschool program.”
All 45 Kaleidoscope programs have a site coordinator as well. Their job is to handle the day-to-day operations and management of the program. There are also five total program officers that oversee all the programs. The site coordinators report to them. Each program officer is responsible for eight to 10 afterschool programs.
Laura Peter is the site coordinator at Stiles Point Elementary. She says she really enjoys her job because of the range of freedom she has with the program. “We are able to do so much for these kids,” she says. “We offer six enrichment programs a week and just within the regular Kaleidoscope program, we offer Cooking Club, Running Club, Science Club, Art Club and Sports Club. It is such a fun environment.”
Peter admits that the success of her program at Stiles Point Elementary could not have been achieved without the support of the teachers, staff and the principal there. “I am so lucky to have their support,” she says. “If I need more space, everyone is willing to help me get it and they help me move tables around, etc. to make it work. All I have to do is ask and I get it.”
Peter’s Kaleidoscope program has about 130 students enrolled, 12 staffers and one homework teacher that works two days a week. “I’ve been with some of these kids since pre-K,” she says. “I’ve really watched them grow. It is an honor to be able to work with these kids and build that relationship.”
Peter would like to increase the amount of children in the program at Stiles Point to 150 or 170 next year. “We have a long wait list and I wish we could serve everyone,” she says. She is also interested in getting more community members involved and having them speak to the students.
As for parents, Kaleidoscope is an afterschool program that certainly offers peace of mind, knowing that their son or daughter is in a safe environment. Ericka Goss, whose 9-year-old daughter, Addison Goss, attends Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary School in North Charleston, says, “I appreciate the nurturing environment the counselors provide. They know each child’s strengths, needs and abilities. They encourage and expect academic achievement before play. At times, lessons from class are incorporated in free play. I value individuals who challenge my daughter, in addition to exhibiting admiration too. I feel she’s protected when she is in their care.”
She went onto say, “The spirit of kindness is always present when you enter the space. It’s a reflection of the staff when you enter the room and they are always smiling. If they are having a bad day, it’s never evident. This is important for individuals working with children. Addison has attended the Kaleidoscope summer camp at North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary School for a number of years, too.”
The summer program runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. five days a week all summer. There are 22 summer school programs, half of which are Title 1.
For more information on CCSD’s Kaleidoscope program, visit www.ccsdschools.com.