As the Twig is Bent, So Grows the Tree

When children are inspired from a young age, their motivation extends into adulthood.

What is it about Episcopal Community Services’ youth programming that makes it such an asset to communities? Just ask  Armani, one of the more than 775 bright-eyed children enrolled in a catalog of activities for youth K-12. 

“I’m surrounded by adults who care about me, they encourage me to act
responsibly,” she shared in rhyme. “Because you are here, I must attest:
I’m striving to do and be my best.”

Armani recited these lines last spring during a press conference at West
Philadelphia’s Alain Locke Elementary School. Alain Locke is a community school where one of our esteemed Out of School Time (OST) programs operates and where the City of Philadelphia announced the opening of a competitive bidding process to all afterschool providers. Mayor Jim Kenney was there, along with Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite, Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS)
Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa, and other city officials—plus visiting parents and camera crews. 

Students were decked out in ECS dark blue and teal to celebrate and cheer for the program with their special guests. Armani’s poem was met with applause, and even brought the mayor to tears. 

“We want to make sure that our OST programs make kids excited to be
here,” Mayor Kenney said. “Work hard in school, work hard after school …
and you will go far.” 

This year, ECS incorporated a social emotional learning curriculum into
its OST programs—a model proven to increase children’s ability to think
critically, leading to better relationships in the classroom and at home.
But it is not just relationships that are improved. 

“Well-rounded youth are in tune with their emotions, and social emotional
learning really is an amazing tool that helps prepare our youth for the future,” said Christian Holland, MDiv, MBA, senior director of Out of School Time and youth programs. Students participate in extracurricular
activities that integrate a STEAMbased curriculum (science, technology,
engineering, arts, and mathematics) naturally into a project-based
learning model. 

These afterschool activities result in better math and language arts grades, stronger homework completion rates, and improved classroom behavior. Long-term effects include an increase in high school graduation rates and a greater earning potential as adults. ECS was awarded the continuation of its afterschool and summer camp services at all seven sites, and it remains the second largest OST provider in the city. More than half of all ECS participants are school-aged. And the number continues to grow.