PAMELA KOTANT For the State Gazette
While programs across the country participated in “Lights on Afterschool” parades or other events, without fanfare Sennett Middle School led by example to show the importance of schools staying open after the regular day.
The 23rd annual national Lights on Afterschool event highlights the important role of after-school programs and the ways they support students by offering them opportunities to learn new things. Sennett celebrated the spirit of the event Thursday as it continues to offer a variety of clubs to appeal to student interests such as art, cooking, dance and yearbook.
Eighth grader Jam Dio was cutting circles out of the pages of an old book to make a collage in art club.
“I really like to create things and it gives me space and materials to create things that I don’t necessarily have at home,” Jem said of the art club. “For example, I don’t have any books thrown away at home.”
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Clubs are offered in the after school program run by Madison School and Community Recreation. Some clubs are held more than once a week, and clubs start at different times during after-school programming Monday through Thursday, so students can attend more than one. The program is free and students can simply join, said DeVonte Robinson, director of MSCR after school at Sennett.
Several of the clubs will be featured at an event starting at 6pm on Wednesday at Sennett. It will be a chance for parents to meet teachers, plan conferences and talk about academics. In addition, the dance club will perform, the cooking club will have a cool-down, and the yearbook club will take pictures. The school had planned to show off new playground equipment, but it likely won’t be completed.
Most clubs are run by staff, but sometimes guest speakers are included. Other offerings include Black Excellence and the Black Student Union, the Gender Sexuality Alliance, and the Back on Track club, where students with lower GPAs receive one-on-one homework help. One club provides support for students in AVID, a college preparatory program.
Juventud is a partner club with Centro Hispano where students do homework and other activities. Mathlete is a math club where students participate in competitions.
Students can also participate in an outdoor gym.
The idea is to give students as many opportunities and experiences as possible and give them a place to be, Robinson said.
“We want our program to be very diverse,” he said. “Some kids can’t be themselves at home, so we provide that space at school.”
Sennett art teacher Christy Straavaldsen, who leads the art club, said it allows students to explore art with people outside of their classrooms and school rooms. It’s also important because not all students take an art class during the school year, Straavaldsen said, which allows students to choose what they want to do.
“I hope that the students who come to the art club will get a chance to create the art they are interested in and try new materials and techniques,” she said. “I also hope to create a safe space for students to relax and have fun while creating art with their peers.”
Seventh-grader Lis Siebel said the club is fun.
“You get to hang out with people who want to do art who aren’t forced to, like in art class, and you get to do things you don’t do in art class,” she said. “I don’t have to go home and just sit around and do nothing.”
The cooking club is called the FCS Club, which stands for Family and Consumer Science. It is led by Holly Canwick, who has taught family/consumer science for 25 years in the field, with a year-round presence at Sennett.
“I run it as an extension of the Family and Consumer Sciences class, offering students an opportunity to explore what it’s like to work collaboratively in a kitchen,” Canwick said.
Students in the class can attend FCS Club to catch up on labs they miss. When classes begin the clothing and textiles department, there will also be an option for club members to work on a variety of sewing projects, including the Quilt Block Challenge.
In the past, the club has provided treats for both staff and students involved in MSCR clubs and sporting events, offered take-out food and held fundraising events. One year he even organized a wedding.
Sixth-grader Dakota Wilson said she joined the club because she likes to cook and bake, but doesn’t know much about it. She also liked the idea of being able to quilt.
“It’s fun because I get to meet a lot of the older kids here,” she said.
Eighth grader Ziona Johnson, who is in the dance club, was practicing for the performance.
“We all have each other’s backs,” she said of the dance club. “It’s a fun environment to be in.”
Eighth-grader Lelia Timberlake said the dance club gives her something to do after school and gives her a chance to practice dancing.
“Because (a dancer) is what I want to be when I grow up,” she said.