“After-the-Bell” is a Kennett Junior High School program that adds another day of school to each participating student’s week by extending the end of school from 2:30 pm to 5 pm. Daily local news After polling, “After the Bell” (ATB) was named Best in Chester County in the 2021 Best After School Program category.
Calling ATB the best after-school program in our area is a really understatement. It does not capture deep value for our community. Over 20 years ago, Kennett investigated one of its greatest needs. The answer was that we needed to find something that would attract young people after school. This addressed the time before and after school when parents returned home from work.
Often, the most creative and fun thing kids can do in the last 7.5 hours each week was getting into trouble or joining a gang. The best thing they were doing was usually playing video games on their Xbox / PlayStation / computer instead of doing their homework. The Kennett community has responded to this need by: “We provide a place for young people to be creative through a fulfilling after-school class.”
Understanding your needs and actually implementing the solution to meet those needs are two very different things. As you can imagine, it was John, Dennis Wood, and Marshall Newton who made this happen, not just humans. They boarded a junior high school to provide space, negotiated with a bus company, and brought incredible professionals to manage the program. Their biggest contribution was to have 80 volunteers lead 45 classes in each session.
My view as an engineer is that Kennett is a “Goldy Rock” community. It has the right combination of kids who really need an extra day of school and junior high school leadership to support the program. Teaching a course at Tough Kenamon Airport, helping students with their homework, and adding volunteers with skills in sports, cooking, drone flight, and plane flight to the mix will make a great program.
Last but not least, we live in the wealthiest county in the state, so we can raise money to cover the school’s sixth day of transportation. With ATB, children can be educated beyond the traditional 12th grade.
I work with 6th grade language teacher Melissa Kiel as a coach for ATB’s 6th grade running club. This gives me great satisfaction, shares my love for running, and I can see 6th grade grow up to be a much better runner than I was at their age. I’m just one of many examples where this program is mutually beneficial for both students and volunteers.
I have great respect for the teachers at Kennett Middle School. After spending eight hours a day in these Energizer Bunny, some teachers volunteer for another 90 minutes. Teachers find ATB useful not only for students but also for teachers. At the end of the school year, they can help children struggling to study stay after school and catch up where they need to go to the next level.
A village is needed for the success of such a program. In the previous column, I talked about how Aaron Martin helped ATB in the early days. There was Randy Scofield, who spent many years on the board of directors leading the organization. Randy died last week with all his achievements. After Bell was a major part of his obituary.
It was Sue Woodward that had a major impact on ATB’s success. She was sometimes referred to as the “early spirit” of the organization. This level of volunteer leadership is necessary for something to be so successful. We need people like Rudy Kalkosak, the current board president, who, after finishing his educational career as a director of the Kennett school district, has moved to supporting the growth of ATB’s capabilities.
Every week, a lot of time was spent calculating numbers and attending a board meeting by past treasurer Sue Solarf and current treasurer Rachel Blanke. One of their financial planning and leadership anchors for many years was Georgia Moss. But it’s all working today with current Executive Director Dawn Doherty Kohl and his staff.
With far more than 500 volunteers and staff in the last 20 years, it is impossible to name all the major contributors. Consider all the time your parents spend supporting their children and helping them navigate the other 22 hours each day. It makes the family understand why China is having such a hard time giving birth to multiple children, perhaps two.
If you live in the Kennett area, check out After-the-Bell online or on Facebook. The need for volunteers to teach sessions continues. KRAPF can use a school bus driver and donating to ATB is another way to keep the class running. Phone (610) 268-5889 or email email@example.com What are they going to say about you in your obituary? Maybe you can be one of the 500 volunteers that ATB will need in the next 20 years to continue making a difference.
“The Story of Kennett-Shaping One Child at a Time” Bob George and Joan Holiday’s book on Kennett can be purchased at Amazon and Kennett mushroom caps or resale bookstores. You can contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Best After-School Program in the After The Bell Area of Kennett-Daily Local
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