Gideons Elementary students learn the basics of photojournalism and storytelling in the Andrew P. Stewart Center's after-school program.

5 after-school programs reshaping how APS students learn

After-school programs offer more than babysitting until parents get off work.

They offer way more.

Like preparing-youth-for-21st-century-careers more.

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From creative professions in entertainment to tech positions for today's digital economy, these K-12 after-school programs train young learners for real-world experiences and future employment:

Andrew P. Stewart Center: The 103-year-old organization evolved from a day nursery into an innovative, community resource space. The Stewart Center exclusively partners and supports families of one of Atlanta's oldest African-American communities: The Pittsburgh Community. "We take a holistic approach to helping Pittsburgh," said Clayton Davis, executive director for the center. "In addition to our after-school program, we provide tutoring, wellness classes and affordable housing. We're in the neighborhood going through life with its residents." The center's after-school program features customized studios in computer science, theater and journalism, which are rarely introduced and professionally executed by K-5 students. Taking place at Charles L. Gideons Elementary, each studio is taught by industry veterans who give more than 150 students a fun glimpse of and projects related to the three career fields. "Students begin to love content," Davis said. "They also develop character and end up producing something tangible — whether a newspaper about what's happening in their classes or community; a theater production that comes with a program; or coding for websites they actually created."

Girls Inc.: Designed to help local girls develop the confidence to become future leaders, Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta's after-school program packs plenty of empowering activities. This program educates about everything from entrepreneurship and e-commerce to social media marketing and financial literacy. It also explores fun projects focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) careers. "This year we are introducing our middle and high school girls to advocacy and civic engagement through our 'She Votes' curriculum," said Kenya Turner, center director. "We have expanded our STEM program to include virtual reality/augmentation to give our girls a more robust STEM experience." Currently, Girls Inc.'s after-school program educates 55 girls but aims to increase this number to 75 with an initiative to reach more middle and high schoolers. "Girls Inc. is not your average after-school program," Turner said. "We have our finger on the pulse of the issues facing our girls in the Greater Atlanta Area like mental health, sex trafficking and body image. Every year we develop programming around current issues for our girls and wrap-around services for the entire family."

Kid Chess: It's created for chess lovers by a chess lover. Chess champion Justin Morrison founded Kid Chess in the late 1990s. Today, his after-school program attracts thousands of Atlanta kids. In fact, it's dubbed the largest chess instructional program in the Southeast. While youth are strategizing on their next moves, they're also improving in math/reading test scores, learning sportsmanship and polishing problem-solving skills. The program builds confidence, critical thinking and competition as well. Kid Chess is popular in nearly 40-plus public and private schools in Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett and Cherokee counties. A few students have even gone on to become state and national champs. 

Science Creations founder Serena Muhammad brings science, technology, engineering, arts and math to life for Atlanta youth through her innovative after-school sessions.
Photo: Photo courtesy of Science Creations

Science Creations: This after-school program literally gets down and dirty. It's an interactive experience that teaches students about plants, insects, rocks and minerals. "We're in the business of 'edutainment,'" said Serena Muhammad, program director. "The projects we do stick in kids' heads because they're exciting. We don't tell them the answers. Instead, we use guided teaching strategies to help them reach a conclusion on their own." Engaging demos and discussions keep kids hooked to outdoor learning. For 2019, Science Creations is starting a new series call "How Things Work," which will include mechanics (machines, engines and basic household appliances) and human mechanics (the brain, digestive system and both skeletal and muscle systems). Science Creations provides science sessions to hundreds of students throughout the academic year. "Our goal is to engage students in hands-on, higher-order thinking concepts," she said. "We take pride in watching each child achieve an 'aha' moment."

Young Rembrandts: For more than 30 years, Young Rembrandts has provided after-school art for kids of North Fulton and DeKalb counties. And drawing lessons go above mere coloring and tracing lines. Youth strengthen in social/intellectual development, academic performance and fine motor skills. A global program, its after-school enrichment caters to children ages 3.5 to 12. Sparking both sides of the brain to create, Young Rembrandts' curriculum teaches kids about everything from cartooning to the importance of persistence, patience, discipline and detail. These 21st-century learners also sharpen in self-confidence and self-esteem.

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