The aim of Clayton Youth Enrichment has always been in the name. Youth. Enrichment.

So, it comes as no surprise that Clayton’s summer program, an extension of the organization’s TEA-funded 21st Century initiative, falls right in line with the positive and productive efforts being done year-round.

“The ultimate goal is to provide kids enriching opportunities over the summer weeks, and continue the education they’re receiving from us and somewhat through the school day to help close any summer gap,” Clayton Director of Programs Robert Hamilton said.

Clayton has once again taken part in Read Fort Worth’s Summer Scholars Collaborative, which features 12 programs operating at more than 60 sites across the city. Each program is embedded with a purposeful literacy component designed to help prevent “summer slide,” which is the loss of literacy levels over the summer.

The grant-funded summer programs at Clayton that fall within the Collaborative covered 10 campuses in Fort Worth ISD and ran for six weeks. Housing the programs on school campuses was key, as students and parents/caregivers felt a level of comfort due to the familiar surroundings, Hamilton said.

The kids attended daily for four hours, including lunch, and took part in a mix of academically-elevating activities delivered in a holistic approach. The campus site coordinator helped guide the activities based on the local needs of each school.

For instance, students may engage in a activity of drafting and developing stories, using the Write Brain Books curriculum. One campus had students creating ceramic masks celebrating African heritage. STEM and fine arts are infused throughout the day. SPARK, a skills-based and low-competition athletic curriculum, is also incorporated.

Different vendors visited the schools to give demonstrations and work with the students on everything from dancing to boxing. The objective to develop specific programming by campus was intentional and purposeful.

“It feels like the extension of the after-school program, just during the summer,” Hamilton said. “We try to provide a variety of activities.”

The 10 FWISD campuses each serve between 40-50 students, providing Clayton with extensive reach across the city. About half of the enrollment is targeted, with students being invited to the summer program based primarily on academic and social needs. Clayton also partners closely with the District on identifying students based on factors such as grade level assessment, attendance rates and behavioral referrals.

The schools are carefully selected to provide the most effective support. For the summer program, the FWISD elementary schools were AM Pate, Bill J Elliott, Bonnie Brae, Clifford Davis, Harlean Beal, Morningside, Rosemont, West Handley, Westcreek and Western Hills.

“Our overall philosophy is to go into these schools, target kids who need the program, either academically or socially or both,” Hamilton said.

Clayton’s programs have made a true connection at home. According to a recent survey conducted by Clayton, the main reason that roughly 75 percent of parents are enrolling their kids is for the enrichment opportunities. Only about 25 percent are primarily interested in having a place for their child to go before they can be picked up.

“We thought that percentage would be higher, but it turns out that parents would otherwise pick up their kids after school or drop them off with a neighbor or find something else to do,” Hamilton said. “They are choosing to enroll in our program for the enrichment than for childcare.”

Being part of the Summer Scholars Collaborative and being aligned with Read Fort Worth is a source of pride for Clayton.

“We’re grateful for the Read Fort Worth partnership because it challenges us as an agency to continue to move forward, and to think differently and more strategically about how we can continue to impact kids, specifically with literacy,” Hamilton said. “While we don’t claim to be a tutoring organization or to be the end-all, be-all for raising test scores, it’s great to be able to walk lockstep with the District, particularly with early-grade reading. This is very important to Fort Worth ISD and the community, and Read Fort Worth has challenged us to grow in that area.”

For more information on Clayton Youth Enrichment, visit claytonyouth.org.


Article by Art Garcia

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