Learning Afterschool

by Hanna Nauen
July 9, 2013

Hanna Nauen ’14 is an Impact Providence intern this summer working for the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance.

I wake up at 6:30 AM, a half hour before my alarm is scheduled to go off, because there’s a bug crawling up the inside of my leg. Living off campus in the summer has been an interesting experience.

Every morning, I take the 8:30 AM 92 trolley (free RIPTA is the best!), which stops right outside my house at Brook and Williams. Most people get off at Kennedy Plaza; I’m usually one of the only riders who keeps on truckin’ to Federal Hill and then past it into Olneyville. I get off at the intersection of Atwells and Valley and walk down Valley Street until I reach my beautiful office building: THE UNITED WAY OF RHODE ISLAND!

Because I’m only a summer intern, I don’t get a little staff keycard. This means that I need to ask the receptionist Lorie to let me into the building every day. This keeps me humble.

I sit down at my desk at about 9:05 AM and check my email. I also grab a free cup of tea (yes, free tea!) and some water from the drinking fountain. Gotta stay hydrated if I’m going to IMPACT PROVIDENCE! Finally, it’s time to get to work.

I work at RIASPA - the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance. RIASPA is an education initiative of the United Way, which is an organization that provides aid in four areas: housing, income, education, and our “211” program, which is immediate assistance and information over the phone. RIASPA is basically a statewide network of afterschool professionals, whether that be technical assistants, teachers, daycare providers, superintendents, legislators, or interns from Brown. We work to educate people about the importance of engaging students during afterschool time. Afterschool itself is a bit of misnomer- it does not just mean the hours from 3 PM onwards. It means any time that children are not in school- that is, weekends, afternoons, and of course, SUMMER! It’s also known as OST- out of school time.

The project I am helping to oversee is called the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative (HSLI). Basically, RIASPA is funding 16 six-week summer learning programs in 11 communities across Rhode Island, serving 1500 children. The HSLI is named as such because Hasbro donated $200,000 to partially fund these summer learning programs (love you Hasbro!). The state legislature put another $250,000 in their budget for summer learning.

The learning model we promote has several important factors. It is HANDS-ON, EXPERIENTIAL, COLLABORATIVE, and involves an aspect of SERVICE LEARNING! What does this mean, you ask? Well, a lot of people see the idea of “summer school” as absolute torture. However, research has shown that students lose a lot of knowledge in both math and reading if they’re not academically stimulated over the summer. How can we mitigate learning loss AND keep students engaged and having fun, instead of sweltering in an un-air-conditioned school taking remedial classes and following the same desk-bound, conventional model that failed them in the first place?

Our model tries to accomplish this! Each summer learning program needs to consist of a SCHOOL (elementary, middle, or high schools have all applied) and a COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION (e.g. YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, etc). This collaboration helps to expand the scope of activities that the children can do during the summer and promote learning even as they have fun. Each one of our chosen 16 programs has presented a proposal to RIASPA with a tentative schedule, a list of community partners, a budget, and a description of their service learning (aka community service mixed with knowledge).

Anyway, the real question is: What do I do? This is my blog, after all. I have been scheduling site visits to these 16 sites, for both RIASPA staff members and other interested parties. I’ve also been helping to coordinate product donations to the sites; Hasbro has allowed each site to choose ten free toys or games! Hasbro is also sending a Scrabble game to each site so the sites can host a tournament. Furthermore, through a very successful book drive, RIASPA is collaborating with the organization Books Are Wings to donate books to every site.

My other main project is planning an event that RIASPA is hosting on August 6th entitled the 2013 Summer Learning Summit! My responsibilities have involved finding a location, creating an invite list, drafting invitations, finding buses, researching catering options, creating a project proposal for the United Way higher-ups to approve, working on a handbook to give all attendees, and creating panels of experts to speak at the event.

It’s been great to get an overhead view of education in Rhode Island and see things from a funder’s perspective instead of from an activist’s perspective- it really gives me a sense of how organizations/causes need to conduct themselves in order to receive funding. I think this will serve me well in the future, when I might be on the other side of the table. As much as we’d like every good cause to be completely funded and not need to advocate for money, the world of funding is competitive. Knowing the ins and outs of funding decision-making and the process of creating a RFP (Request for Proposals) will help me advocate in the future for causes I believe in.

A few other random job perks:

- A Brown alumna (class of 2011) was just hired full-time by RIASPA! Brown students unite!

- There’s a bakery one block away that has amazing flan for $1.25. ONE TWENTY FIVE!

- I work in a three-person department so everyone’s very close!

- My boss bought me a burrito and it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. They cut up fresh avocado right into the burrito and there were like 9 kinds of salsa and it had little fried pork chunks and it was about five dollars. Olneyville, man!

- I went on a mini-road trip to Newport! Driving in cars is very exciting for me.

- Half hour long lunch break = prime LSAT study time

- Did I mention the FREE TEA???

Anyway, this is what I’ve been doing at RIASPA! I hope everyone else is having a wonderful summer experience!