By Rachel Willis, research project manager at the Kansas Enrichment Network.
After celebrating early successes, the Spartan Explorers afterschool program will continue through the 2017-2018 school year. Begun in January 2017, the program is a partnership between Emporia High School and the Fifth Judicial District Community Corrections in Emporia, Kansas, developed to better engage high school youth who are involved with the judicial system, truant, or on probation.
Both school administrators and community correction officers recognized the need to keep youth safe and busy between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m., when juvenile crime is most likely to occur. During the 2017 spring semester, 17 youth attended the program where they were given the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities.
“It was important to connect with the students socially, emotionally and educationally,” says Community Corrections Director Steve Willis.
Following a snack and leadership activity, the students participate in elective activities that are normally not an option for them during the regular school day. For example, students learned about general automotive maintenance (checking fluids, rotating tires, and inspecting brakes) and participated in pottery and glass-blowing art classes. Cooking balanced meals and participating in recreational activities like disc golf are also featured at the program.
Emporia High School Art Teacher Grant Charpentier felt the program was a fun outlet for students who otherwise rarely have an opportunity to take these classes. Additionally, the program allowed students to build positive relationships with adults.
Of the youth who participated in the program, 85 percent earned half an elective credit and $250 towards court fines. Participants also passed all of their classes and improved their regular school day attendance.
The Kansas Enrichment Network offered suggestions and encouragement and is grateful for the partnership. The program has proven to be a valuable experience for highly vulnerable youth and it is thrilling to see its work continue in the new school year!