When many people think of summer, they think of downtime for students and teachers alike. But at our community schools, summer can be just as busy as the rest of the school year. And that’s especially true for our community school directors.
Sandra Romero – our community school director at the Whitney Young Jr. campus in the Bronx – spent her summer planning and facilitating enriching and educational activities for our young people and families. She also welcomed our youth who participated in Summer Youth Employment and made sure that all our kids and families stayed connected to health and wellness services.
This week is Coordinators Appreciation Week, and at Children’s Aid we use it as a time to celebrate the outstanding work that our community school and community center directors do. Directors like Sandra serve as the bridge between the youth and families we serve and the broader communities, ensuring that they have everything they need to succeed and thrive.
It’s the work of people like Sandra, and our coordinators across the city, that has helped make Children’s Aid a leader in the community schools model in New York City and across the country. And it’s their work that makes us trusted partners in the neighborhoods we serve.
This summer, Sandra and her team organized activities centered around the theme of “My City.” Each grade was assigned to one borough, and the students got to nominate activities that they would like to do within each borough. Eventually, Sandra and her team organized outings for the students to the Circle Line boat tour, to the Bronx Zoo, to hop-on buses on Manhattan, and so much more.
“I love connecting our kids to something that they haven’t experienced before,” Sandra said. “It’s amazing to see their curiosity be encouraged and rewarded in a really special outing. Our whole team worked together to put together this wonderful summer.”
The summer provides Sandra with more time in the afternoon to plan outings. During the school year, our afterschool program only lasts for three hours. But during the summer, students work on their education in the morning and then have from noon to 6 p.m. to enjoy recreational activities and outings.
“The summer is a lot of fun because the students are able to engage in so many hands-on activities,” she said. “They do interactive lessons like dissection in STEM classes and then dancing or sports in the afternoon. They don’t just sit still during the day.”
As the summer wrapped up, Sandra heard from parents that they were already prepared to sign their children up for the year ahead.
“We want to build up a reputation in the community,” Sandra said. “I want children to go home and tell their parents that they had an amazing experience, and I want the parents to recommend our site to their friends. That’s what happened this summer. Parents realized that we are more than just a day care center. We’re providing these incredible opportunities for them.”
With the school year underway again, Sandra has been focused on making sure the students are physically and emotionally prepared for their education. She’s connected students to social workers for mental health services and taken new initiatives with nutrition, reducing the amount of sugary drinks and increasing the variety of vegetarian foods served.
“We think about our work in four domains: family, health, behavior, and academic,” she said. “We want our students to succeed in every way.”
And she’s already thinking about next summer.
“I want to create curiosity,” she said. “This year we focused on our city, and so maybe next year’s theme could be exploring the world. We want the kids to feel like their opportunities are endless.”