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MM Special: Q&A with the Atlantic Street Center

My attention was first directed to the Atlantic Street Center after reading this article in The Seattle Times last week. The Seattle-based nonprofit aims to help low-income families raise healthy, successful, academically eager children through a variety of services such as tutoring, study skills instruction, and cultural awareness workshops. Eager to know more, I e-mailed Darcy McInnis, the organization's communications coordinator, and she agreed to answer a few questions about what the organization does and how it increases student motivation. Her responses touch on a lot of issues we write about in this blog--parent involvement, early childhood education, community involvement, and hands-on, creative learning experiences. Below are some excerpts from that interview (my questions are in bold and Ms. McInnis' responses follow):

In a recent article, executive director Edith Elion said the ASC's Youth Development Program was designed to foster "a deep love for learning and an appreciation of our culture." How does the Youth Development Program go about achieving those goals?

Education is at the heart of all Atlantic Street Center services. We focus our efforts on helping children of all ages to flourish academically, emotionally and socially in the present, while helping them to develop the skills and strengths they need to succeed in adulthood. In particular, our Youth Development Program provides educational support to youth ages 5-18. These services include in-school and after-school tutoring, homework assistance, study skills instruction, summer school, and career skills workshops. We also offer an academic skill building program for adolescents with a strong college readiness component.

Our Parent-Child Home Program provides early education services, which primarily involves helping 2 & 3 year olds acquire the learning and language they need to get ready for kindergarten. We do this through home-based services for parent and child. Other educational services include WASL prep, homework club, social skills and leadership development, and family study time. We also work with parents to help them understand how to work with their children's schools and teachers and advocate for their child.

How are those two pieces (a deep love of learning and an appreciation of culture) connected?

Those are two different service areas: the educational piece (which I explained above) and the cultural education piece. We achieve the latter through regular cultural events (Black History Month, Juneteenth, Multicultural New Year, Women's History Month, Women of the World Swim, etc.) as well as ongoing workshops on cultural topics as the need arises. We also encourage older youth to participate in service learning activities to encourage them to give back to the community. This includes projects such as volunteering at homeless shelters, creating public art installations, visiting with the disabled and elderly, and assisting community organizations with special projects.

All of these activities are designed to instill a love of learning while at the same time encouraging curiosity and understanding of other cultures and pride for one's own culture.

How do the services that children receive at the ASC affect their attitude towards learning when they're in the classroom?

Many of the children being served by Atlantic Street Center are struggling academically, often because they are not receiving the attention they need to succeed in school. Many of these students are uncertain about their academic potential and future. Our programs are designed to give students the practical help they need to perform at grade level, while also motivating them to conceive of future academic success and advancement. Our hope is that our programs help students foster a love of school and learning and an understanding of how education can help them achieve their life goals.

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