As part of our Back To School Giving Campaign through Oct. 15, Civic Nebraska is highlighting our outside-of-school programs and sharing what they see. Earlier this month, Director of Development Sarah Walker and Grant Writer Alex Brechbill checked out Civic Nebraska’s Trailblazers Afterschool Academy at Lewis & Clark Middle School in Omaha.
Tracy White, the Site Director at Lewis & Clark Middle School, started this day’s session of the Trailblazers Afterschool Academy with some Family Feud for students in the cafeteria.
“Name a state with two words in it.”
“Name an animal over 1,000 pounds.”
“Name the person you feel most guilty lying to.”
“Name something Old McDonald has on his farm.”
Once the students had settled in, Ms. Tracy and her students began the social-emotional learning, or SEL, portion of the program. A student volunteer rang a Vibra-Tone to engage students’ focus and attention on positive learning and to remind students to “always give your best self.” With more than 110 enrolled students from sixth to eighth grades, Tracy and the Academy staff find no behavioral issues in the program – something Tracy is very proud of.
Then, it was club time: Students dispersed to Truck Farm, G.I.V.E., STEM Club, Cooking Club, Theater, and Omaha Girls Rock.
As we were departing, Miss Tracy made an announcement: “Did you know that Marissa was in a Quiz Bowl team and they got first place recently?” The whole cafeteria rang out in applause.
Alex went with club leader Theresa and students to room 123A for the Cooking Club. On the first day of the program, students brainstormed recipes. Of the options, the most popular ideas were pizza, Chex mix, cinnamon apples, milkshakes, fried rice, biscuits and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and bread pudding.
Sarah checked out Omaha Girls Rock. Students introduced themselves, got to know each other, and talked about their hopes for the quarter. The instructor went over the curriculum – the class will discuss music history, how to write their own music, interviews, and how to write Zines.
With all clubs, the curriculum is largely student-driven. Although there are some landmarks along the way, the club is built around what the students are most interested in.
As clubs wrapped up, Sarah and Alex reconvened with the students, partners, and Tracy in the cafeteria for homework time. Tracy, the site director at the Trailblazer Afterschool Academy for 10 years, said the program is incredibly familial – each year, the program has a Family Night, where even ninth-grade alumni attend. The Academy also recently hosted Movie Night for students and families in lieu of a formal gathering. Students and families received free movie tickets, and then chose a film to check out. The only requirement? Students had to send Tracy selfies with their families at the theater.
On our way out, we bumped into Liseth Reyna, who was a student in Tracy’s first year and who now is a leader at the Academy. It’s one of many examples of why the Trailblazers Afterschool Academy is among the top programs in Omaha!