District awarded competitive Community Learning Grant, funds will serve three schools
It is a sunny Thursday afternoon in winter, and while the majority of teachers and students have already left Hamlin Middle School, there are a few special mentors engaging with students in a series of fun activities designed to bolster curiosity, physical fitness, mental health, and build a learning community.
Twelve-year-old Alejandro Abundez is one of those students who stayed after school on this sunny Thursday. He’s intently focused on following the right sequence of folds to create a series of origami flowers in multiple colors. When asked what he intends to do with the collection of paper flowers, he thoughtfully shares that he’s making them for his family and friends.
“It is my favorite thing to do. I love folding the paper and making different designs,” says Alejandro. “I like to make something that is better than what it used to be.”
Alejandro is one of 20 students at Hamlin taking advantage of after-school activities made possible thanks to a special grant and several community partners.
The Oregon Department of Education recently awarded Springfield Public Schools (SPS) with a $2.3 million 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant. The five-year grant covers extended learning programs that support equity-driven academic enrichment, well-rounded student learning, and culturally-relevant family involvement. The grant will be used to support three schools for the next five years: Guy Lee Elementary, Two Rivers-Dos Ríos Elementary, and Hamlin Middle School.
“We were previous recipients of the 21st CCLC grant, which provided after school programs from 2013-2018,” explains Melissa Locke, federal programs administrator in the district. “This federal grant is highly competitive—only about half the applicants receive grant funding, and we received the full amount possible.”
In its first-year, the program hopes to build student interest, increase capacity by addressing staffing needs, and layering-on partner supports. The program aims to support 45 students and their families, which have to register with the program in order to receive assistance.
While the program is technically available to all students, schools are focused on serving students experiencing foster care, homelessness, or poverty. The program also serves students who are Black, indigenous, Latinx, and students who are non-native English speakers.
“We currently have 30 registered, with about 20 showing up consistently. Regular attendance is a key component of the program—it is not a drop-in service for families,” said Locke. “By fall of 2024, we would expect to have all of our community partner supports in place and have 30-45 regularly attending students. So far, the students who are coming are enjoying it!”
For example, the SPARK Club at Hamlin Middle School is an after-school program that provides academic support, tutoring, mentoring, and career and technical education options to students.
“We have a number of career-connected and hands-on learning activities, like vinyl cutting, robotics, and 3D printing,” said Maria Denny, CCLC coordinator at Hamlin. “Students can also learn art, participate in physical education, or have access to activities that help promote social-emotional and mental health.”
Families will be involved at least once a month through family engagement and learning opportunities. In addition, SPS is partnering with community organizations like Connected Lane County, Lane Arts Council, Healthy Moves, and Ophelia's Place.