Six questions with Frances Martinez, United Community Centers Director of Programs
The nonprofit United Community Centers provides structured after-school and summer programs at three Fort Worth locations: the Bethlehem Center off Humbolt Street, the Polytechnic Center on Avenue I, and the Wesley Center in far north Fort Worth, near Near H.V. Helbing Elementary School. Each site serves about 75 students ages 4 to 13.
The centers, which are supported by United Way of Tarrant County and The United Methodist Church among others, are in their fifth year of a literacy focus for young children. The daily after-school schedule includes specific time slots for play balanced with instructional support to reinforce what children have learned during the school day.
Frances Martinez, UCC’s director of programs, introduced Read Fort Worth to the Wesley Center campus and its children this month and answered a few questions about her work.
1. How do the United Community Centers support parents in need of quality after-school child care for their children?
United Community Centers has a rich history of giving to others. Our mission statement is “guided by Christian principles, we serve and empower those in need.” The Wesley Center operates in one of Fort Worth’s most impoverished neighborhoods. We strive to maintain a close proximity to the schools that we serve in order for families to have easy access to our program.
2. What do families like most about the Wesley program?
The Wesley Center has a long history with over 100 years in the North Side. Parents whose children attend the center were once children at the center themselves. They find Wesley to be a place called “home.”
3. How do Wesley Center staff members help children with their reading skills?
All of our staff members are trained in “guided reading.” Our trainer is a retired Fort Worth ISD reading teacher with over 25 years of experience. She holds weekly trainings with the child care staff and performs evaluations on a point system to help with performance. Staff members work 45 minutes to an hour with a group of six children at a time while other children in the classroom are working in literacy centers on vocabulary, spelling and independent reading with a purpose.
4. How does participating in the after-school program help children with school?
Children in the after-school program have shown a huge growth in reading levels, with 72 percent of our third-graders at all our sites reading on or above level. We use the Fountas and Pinnell assessment system to measure results.
5. What should parents consider when enrolling their child in the Wesley program?
Any parent would really love our program. We are certified to care for children and subject to inspections every six months by the Texas Department of Regulatory Services. In addition, we are a safe place for children to grow in their literacy and in their ability to develop socially.
6. What programs do you offer in the summer?
The centers are open during the summer for 10 weeks, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. We serve three meals a day with two snacks. Our schedule is tight and active. We have literacy activities in the morning, outside or gym time, and the afternoon is dedicated to math, social studies, science and arts and crafts.
To learn more about the United Community Centers, visit https://www.unitedcommunitycenters.org/