Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2013/ 1 Kislev, 5774
Making up for what schools no longer deliver
By Mitch Albom
Welcome to after-school activities, 2013.
Do It Yourself.
That's how I remember it, too. But today, thanks to budget cuts on every level, a
Yes, certain sports endure. But if you recall the days of the ham radio club, the home economics club, the chemistry club and the jazz band ensemble, you haven't been to a public school very recently.
AN EDUCATIONAL ROAD SHOW
"We were maybe five minutes late, and he was just sitting there waiting in the street," she said. "All the kids were gone. All the teachers were gone. The doors were locked. He was left there to fend for himself."
Pernell, like me, remembers the days when schools -- especially high schools -- were hives of activity long after sunset during winter months, games, music, creativity, learning. There's a serious price to pay -- beyond nostalgia -- for losing those options.
"Studies show that the hours between 3 and 6 are when kids are most likely to get into trouble on the streets," she correctly noted. "So that's when we do our programs."
Her program is part of "Real Life.
Her teachers? She found them on
Her instruments and supplies? They were donated or purchased.
Her schools? They have included Vista Maria in
"I could have so many more," she lamented, "but they say they need to have someone around to patrol the halls and lock up after we are finished. And there's nobody there."
When I asked how much one employee might cost for those extra hours -- for a year -- she said, "Maybe
She said it as if she needed a million. Her program, she said, is a 501(c)3 charity, meaning donations are tax deductible.
You wonder whether we couldn't pool our resources for something that simple.
'MY FAVORITE MOMENT'
Think about what goes on in the hours between school's end and dinner. Kids hang around. Kids watch TV. Kids go on computers. It would be nice if they all did their homework. But the truth is, kids get bored. And bored kids -- especially unsupervised bored kids -- are bad news waiting to happen.
If you're like me, you recall when there was always a school play, a musical group, a sports team, an arts program, a language club or some kind of "society" to fill the late afternoon hours.
Pernell and her volunteers clear out classrooms to make room for dancing. They move desks and bring instruments to teach the joy of music. They set up easels and teach painting and fine arts.
"The best part is after the 16-week program, we have a showcase," Pernell says. "The kids get to demonstrate what they've been doing. You see the gratifying look on their faces. They feel like they've really accomplished something. They're always nervous before and ecstatic afterward.
"That's my favorite moment."
Pernell does this from her heart. She holds a part-time job to pay her bills. She lives in a two-room apartment with her boyfriend and her child. "No basement for us," she says, laughing.
Fortunately, to allow Pernell to follow her dream, her mother keeps her doors open. What a shame that so many of our schools can't do the same.
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