Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. – The Hope through Housing Foundation’s After School and Beyond program serves 1,300 low-income and at-risk children at 32 sites. Those are the numbers. The real stories are of young people with opportunities they might never have had otherwise. By participating in After School and Beyond, these children are better prepared for school and for life. The following names have been changed to protect their identities, but their stories are real:
A father’s death
Last May, Thomas’ father was tragically killed, and the boy, then 6, stopped coming to After School and Beyond. After a difficult summer, Thomas’ mother re-enrolled him in the program. She had thought about moving to another city but realized the one place her son wanted to be more than anywhere was the after school program.
On his first day back, Thomas was all smiles. Since then, he has had his ups and downs, but with the support of the staff and other children in the program, Thomas has steadily progressed and has more happy days than sad ones. He is engaged in program and always volunteers to be a helper.
After School and Beyond has provided a safe haven for Thomas. The structure of the program has given him the space to learn, interact, share and, best of all, to begin the healing process.
Learning corrective behavior
Three sisters – older twins and the baby of the family – come from a single-parent household and have had to live through an ugly custody battle.
When the older girls enrolled in the program, the staff was not immediately aware of the troubles at home. One was always trying to control and fix her sisters. The other was more aggressive, often landing her in trouble at school, in the program, and then at home. As a team, the staff focused on what was really going on in their lives. The girls were given consequences for their misbehavior and an opportunity to discuss corrective actions.
While the twins have grown significantly over the years, their younger sister has grown the most. She began the program when she was in kindergarten. Tantrums were frequent, and her mom wanted to pull her out of the program. The staff reassured her that keeping her in would help her daughter outgrow the tantrums and redirect her behavior. Over time, she has learned to recognize and control her emotions.
Overcoming physical limitations
Victor has been part of the After School and Beyond program for a year. His mother was eager to put him in program despite his being deaf in both ears. The staff informed his mother that they did not know sign language but she felt very comfortable allowing him to join. While Victor does not speak much, he recites the Peace Builder pledge everyday with the rest of the children. He also volunteers to read the program rules. To Victor, these are small accomplishments but to the staff it is inspiring. He communicates well and is patient with everyone in program. He has come a long way since he began program and continues to thrive.
Having difficulty fitting in
Late last year, a mother enrolled her two children in the After School and Beyond program. Her daughter was quiet and shy and her son was loud and difficult. Their mother explained that her husband kicked them out and they were starting to go through a nasty divorce. Unfortunately, the children witnessed a lot of the arguments. She said her son has been acting out at home and at school. She advised the staff to be prepared for her his behavior.
The boy was indeed difficult from the first day. He bullied other kids and tried to boss around the staff. He would make provocative gestures and would disrupt program. When the boy acted out, his actions were corrected. The family’s primary language was Spanish and the other children would sometimes make fun of the boy’s accent. When the staff witnessed the other children picking on him, they corrected their action as well.
The boy’s attitude changed toward the staff when he realized they were treating him the same way they treated the other children. His actions were corrected like everyone else’s.
After a few weeks his mother said that she had noticed a change in her son and so had his school teachers. She was very pleased with the help the staff was able to provide to her children. Her daughter was able to break out of her shell and make friends in program. Both children continue to attend program and their behavior has greatly improved.
About National CORE, Hope through Housing
National Community Renaissance, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing. CORE manages nearly 9,000 affordable, senior and market-rate units in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. Hope through Housing was founded by National CORE in 1998 to provide life-changing social services to residents and communities. For more information on CORE and Hope through Housing, please visit www.nationalcore.org.
Steve Lambert, The 20/20 Network
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