With their hands covered in flour, Yeriel Francis-Estrada and his friends measured two cups and plopped them in a bowl for a science experiment. As it got a bit messy, their smiles widened.
Like many after-school Team 21 activities, the students hands-on learning experience was fun.
“I like the activities,” Yeriel said. “My favorite one was going to (indoor trampoline park) Skyzone. If I wasn’t here, I’d be playing on my computer at home,” said the Parkview Elementary School third-grade student during the program’s Science Discovery Night.
Fifty-four students attend Parkview’s Team 21 Monday-through-Thursday program regularly, benefiting from a combination of tutoring and academics, enrichment and recreational activities. Citywide, the program operates in 15 schools, up from seven last year, at Wyoming, Godwin, Godfrey-Lee and Kelloggsville Public Schools. It serves more than 1,500 students.
While Yeriel and his friends enjoyed Science Night on the recent Thursday, students at Oriole Park Elementary showed off art and writing to parents; West and North Godwin Elementary students noshed on caramel apples and painted faces at a fall celebration; and Wyoming Intermediate students collected canned goods from neighbors for a local food pantry, offering to return another day to rake yards.
Grateful for the Opportunity
Educators, parents and students say Team 21 is a program that makes a difference in young people’s education, and those who lost the program last school year are happy to have it back.
The program was cut at several elementary schools when grant money expired, but for this school year, the City of Wyoming Parks and Recreation Department and Wyoming Public Schools were awarded federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, allocated by Michigan Department of Education. Grants totaling $1.35 million each year for five years will cover nearly all direct costs for the program, Bloem said.
Gladiola Elementary School Principal Craig Hoekstra said 52 of his students are impacted by the well-rounded activities and through connecting with adult role models. In addition to fun activities, students get needed academic support during the program’s 45-minute daily slot for homework.
Gladiola lost the program last year, and Hoekstra saw an increase in students coming to school not ready to learn. “The major thing I’m seeing is the students in Team 21 develop a sense of belonging,” he said.
He said he expects to see a bump academically. “I think we will see a benefit with student (test score) data going up,” he said.
Each site is staffed with a site coordinator and volunteers. Gladiola’s coordinator Barry Hall grew up in Muskegon Heights, where he benefited from a similar program as a child. “I wanted to support a group of kids that come from a similar background as me,” he said. “It kept me out of trouble,” he said.
At Parkview, fourth grader Carlos Cruz talked about observing caterpillars form cocoons and morph into butterflies with Team 21 and picking out pumpkins at a local farm. He said his parents work after school and he has many friends in the program. Best of all, it helps him with school.
“They help me with my homework,” Carlos said.