A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs: University Starts Now

Editor’s note:  We are pleased to introduce our latest blog series, “A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs.”  We offer a full range of programs for children, youth and adults.  In this series, we focus on several of aspects, giving you a peek into what makes these programs tick—and sharing a few “little known secrets”!

When a child plops his or her backpack onto the floor and begins one of our after-school sessions, we see an opportunity that goes far beyond a sheet of homework.

“It’s really about the whole person,” says Noemi Juarez, KidWorks’ Director of After School Programs.

“There is definitely the academic aspect—yet there is so much more,” she says.  “We are also very intentional about focusing on character, along with the development of the mind, physical fitness and creativity.”

That’s where our University Starts Now comes in.  USN for short, this program focuses on our younger students, ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade.

“We picked the name University Starts Now because it signifies that preparing for higher education starts the moment a little one attends his or her first day of preschool, and for every school day thereafter,” Noemi says.  “Even in the early grades, we show them pictures of actual universities, play games where they guess the name of a college mascot and even have alumni come back to tell them what dorm life is like.”

In addition to the all-important academics, USN also gives our kids a chance to blossom in ways that are unique to KidWorks’.

Noemi gives an example from the most recent school year.

“If you were in USN, you’d sit with our volunteer tutors to successfully complete your homework, but your day would be broader than that,” she says.  “You would have studied the idea of equality, and followed that up by writing a ‘thank you’ letter to Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Noemi adds, “You’d also learn about composting, and get hands-on experience by using some banana peels from home.  During the school year, you’d also learn about recycling, and get a chance to actually do some recycling yourself, including learning the three R’s—recycle, reuse and reduce.”

Noemi says that our USN students also had a chance to bring out their creative side while learning about the need to conserve water.  “Our students all made a water conservation poster that was part of a city-wide contest.  One of our students even won!”

We celebrate individual and class success with “spirit days” that have included popcorn and ice cream parties.

It’s all meant to make learning fun.  With that said, KidWorks is also all about results and academic improvement.

We subscribe to several programs from “Let’s Go Learn,” a diagnostic testing service that helps us benchmark and track our students’ success.  Testing takes place in October, with follow-up testing near the close of the school year.

As our fall 2016 USN program gets underway, look for even more fresh ideas to help our students continue to say, “We love KidWorks and we love learning!”

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer