We are excited to offer our CASE program for another school year. CASE (Character and Skills Education) is a two-hour after-school program that offers academic tutoring and enrichment activities for the students of DuPont Hadley Middle School in Old Hickory TN. This year we have even more students! Like last year, we are operating this program at two sites--one at our property in Hopewell, one at the DuPont Hadley school. This year we expect to have around 35 students in total.
It's been a great start so far. The program is designed to give students a feeling of ownership over the program. On the first day, we had the students come up with the rules for the program, the behavior they expect from their fellow participants. We’ve also began with a lot of icebreakers and team building exercises. The goal is to create a welcoming environment, an environment they feel actively engaged in making. Two hours, four days a week is a lot of time to spend together, so we want to ensure that a fun group dynamic is maintained. Even after the first two weeks, we can see this dynamic taking shape.
Over the past few years, our organization has grown in our capacity to offer quality youth education. We began The Academy for GOD two years ago, and many of our teachers help run CASE, bringing with them all the experience of teaching at the Academy. Craig Duffy, for instance, is a teacher at the Academy, and he is bringing his energy and enthusiasm for education to the Dupont-Hadley site. Jeffrey Sherrod teaches literature at the Academy, and he is running the site at G.O.D. Our experience and knowledge is growing, and NAZA (Nashville After Zone Alliance), who funds our program, has noted the experience of our staff.
One of the great aspects of CASE is that it offers students new learning opportunities, giving them a chance to try out new skills. To give an example: We had two presenters come in from the Nashville Public Library and present on oral history. The kids then got to practice their interviewing skills by asking each other questions using the audio equipment that the library uses. It was a blast to hear kids answer questions like “What wisdom would you like to share?” (to which one kid stressed the importance of not drinking until you're 21, and then only in moderation) and “Who in your life loves you the most?” (To which one student responded: his cat). It was an opportunity to get to know one another, but it was also an opportunity to learn about asking questions. Many kids haven't even been given the tools to access the rich narratives of the people around them. It was exciting to see them take their first step.
The year is just beginning, and we have two semesters of academic training and enrichment activities to go. We have a lot more activities to offer--drama, gardening, computer programming, and more. These are just a few of the activities that we will offer. More than that, we will continue to grow as a group, discovering how to work together and learn. It’s going to be a great year.