Nine after-school programs in Boston have joined the Harvard After School Initiative (HASI) this fall, receiving more than a quarter million dollars in grants and the opportunity to work with Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE) faculty and coordinators with other after-school organizations supported by HASI.
Marked by its web of collaborations among after-school practitioners, University faculty, and other Harvard resources, HASI was conceived in response to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s leadership to expand and improve after-school efforts in the Boston area.
This most recent round of grants brings a total of 19 after-school programs in Allston-Brighton, Mission Hill, and the Fenway into HASI’s Bridging Initiative, which is charged with improving learning in after-school by strengthening the connections between programs, schools, and families. In addition to funding for an education coordinator staff position, the HASI Bridging Initiative creates an environment for after-school professional development, where HASI-funded after-school programs meet monthly with Harvard faculty and outside experts to discuss the challenges organizations are facing and to create strategies for better learning.
“There can be a real feeling of isolation among new after-school programs, where you have to prove what you are doing works,” said Nikki Flionis, executive director of MissionSAFE: A New Beginning Inc., a newly funded organization offering programming for at-risk teenagers in Mission Hill. “Now we are being plugged into a structured, rich environment with a group of organizations and experts that are like-minded – who believe that the conditions needed to help bridge the emotional, cognitive, and social needs of youth can be offered in after-school programs.”
Organizations that are part of the HASI Bridging Initiative represent a mix of community and school-based after-school programs offering a range of activities – from one-on-one mentoring to programs that link sports and literacy or offer music or high-tech training. All programs are seeking to bridge the gap between schooltime and home time.
“It is clear that we can’t do everything in the school day, so we are making a concentrated effort to find that magical balance between supporting the school-time learning process and making learning fun,” said Ann McDonough, after-school director for the Hamilton School, which has been a part of the HASI Bridging Initiative for one year.