WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams Elementary-Middle School is getting a large boost for it’s after-school program after recently being awarded a $120,000 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.
The grant, along with significant financial support from partners such as St. Mary's Food Bank, the Globe Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of America and Bearizona, will provide educational opportunities disguised as fun projects for children in preschool through eighth grade at the end of the school day.
“Family time is super important, but a lot of families can’t provide that right after school,” said WEMS Principal Carissa Morrison. “Some are watching TV, playing video games or maybe not in a safe place. This will give those students good role models and some structure.”
The new grant funded program, called the Falcon Flyers, will begin Sept. 30 and provide hands-on opportunities for students to improve their academic and social skills in a fun, supportive environment.
“We are looking to support homework, provide tutoring and create experiences in cooking, sewing, science, drama and other subjects,” said Trina Siegfried, a WEMS science teacher and facilitator of the program.
The money will pay for several certified teachers and paraprofessional staff to work with the students.
“We’ve been trying to provide extracurricular activities, a homework club — a lot of piecemeal things,” Morrison said. “This brings an umbrella program where students can get academic instruction and have enrichment with activities and extracurriculars.”
The grant will not only fund teachers, support staff and resource materials, but also includes snacks for children.
“Every child’s home situation isn’t’ the same,” Siegfried said. “We have kids waiting for the door to open in the morning. There are needs — the kids feel safe here. They are provided meals and care.”
Morrison said after school programs aren’t new for the school, but having an adequate funding is new.
“We’ve been trying to do it on a shoestring budget and now we will have money to pay people to work and purchase materials — we have sustainability,” she said.
The program has flexibility for teachers to tailor a program to fit the students, but it does have certain requirements. The activities must be aligned to Arizona State Standards and use cross-curricular connections to meet performance objectives. It also must serve family members of the students.
Siegfried said the grant is three fold: It must be focused on student academics, youth development and family engagement.
The academics will come through the program activities, and the youth development will reach students that may need help socially or behaviorally.
“We will work with them in positive environments,” she said. “Since we have a good teacher to child ratio we can attack those kind of challenges the child is having in a positive way.”
She said the program will also focus on providing families with necessary resources such as language learning and job resources.
Siegfried said the grant is awarded for five years, with years four and five having a 25 percent reduction in funding.
“The most amazing thing is the Boys and Girls Club, the Globe Foundation and Bearizona saying they wanted to help,” she said. “It has taken a village. The 21st Century funds are the main piece of it and provides the framework about how it’s going to be done, but having community partners is a huge blessing.”
Siegfried is new to WEMS, but worked in various positions for the Yuma School District including a stint as a grant writer.
“I used to write grants full-time for the district” she said. “I had the experience and knew our kids needed it and that our teachers wanted to do it.”
Siegfried said she was encouraged to complete the 80-page grant application because she knew the teachers were already working to provide after school opportunities for students.
“It wasn’t that the heart and desire wasn’t there, it was the resources that were the problem,” she said.
The Falcon Flyers will meet from 3:30 to 6 p.m. on school days and on from 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays.
More information about the program is available from WEMS at (928) 635-4428.