“What do you want to be when you grow up?

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?

This story is a new collaboration between Manchester Proud and the Manchester School District to share good news from our schools.

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In the Manchester School District, remote learning extends beyond the classroom. Elementary and middle school students are still getting afterschool homework help, enrichment activities, and time with classmates in an online version of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

“We want students to have a place that lets them take a break from their school work, talk to their friends and maybe even learn a tiny bit along the way,” said Tom McGee, the 21st Century program director. “We believe that this little bit of continuity with their school day will help families cope with the challenges of remote learning. Our site coordinators have also made themselves available as resources to parents, helping to find answers, translate phone calls, or just be an understanding person on the other side of a phone.”

Twelve of the city’s 22 schools have offered the 21st Century after-school and summer program for 17 years. Schools are chosen by the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch. Through STEM activities, card games, strategy puzzles, art and music lessons, sports, homework help, and even manners and kindness clubs, students develop their academic and social skills.

The program’s goal is to support and encourage students to become more informed decision-makers; discover talents and new interests; develop self-confidence and a positive self-image; be engaged learners; and feel connected to their school and community.

Staff say the online conversation has been meaningful for them as well. “I love that the Google Classroom is keeping me connected to my students during remote learning,” said Wilson Elementary site coordinator Jamie Suarez. “I am learning a lot about the kids, which is awesome because I truly miss them very, very much!”

When the state transitioned to remote learning in March, Manchester School District teachers and the 21st Century staff moved the program online through Google Classrooms and Google Meet. The district is working on getting devices and internet access to students who need them to ensure everyone can participate.

A Northwest Elementary parent said her student’s first priority each school day is logging onto the “kids’ page” to answer the daily question – and see what others have shared. Questions can range from “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “Who is your favorite superhero?” to “Tell me something about dinosaurs” and “What do you want me to ask the group?”

“It makes them feel like they are still part of the daily program,” the parent said.

Another Northwest parent, whose student is part of the “Uncharted Tutoring” program, appreciates the online social and academic support. “It would never have crossed my mind that you would continue this, so it’s amazing that you are giving everyone a way to still be part of 21st Century,” she said.

Some students have also received kits with materials to complete projects.

“My kids and I had a blast creating negative space paintings together,” said Alyssa Oquendo, a Gossler Park Elementary parent. “The pre-made kits were awesome and the tutorial was informative. It was a great art project and experience.”

The online 21st Century activities are open to all students who enrolled in the program before the state shifted to remote learning. Students were sent an email invite to join Google Classroom. If your student is enrolled in the 21st Century program and has not received an email invite, contact your school’s site coordinator.

Contact information for site coordinators is available at https://21st.mansd.org/home, under “About us.”

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!