Learning doesn’t stop at the afternoon bell in Buffalo Grove
Fifth-graders Ben Kaiser (left) and Anand Vadlamani play cards Aug. 24 during Club Meridian, an after-school program at Buffalo Grove's Meridan Middle School. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 30, 2012 11:12AM
BUFFALO GROVE — If one week back at school hasn’t provided enough learning and fun, students in all grade levels across Buffalo Grove don’t have to leave when the afternoon bell sounds.
A wide variety of after-school programs are available for students to choose from.
Community Consolidated Elementary District 21 offers its Family Learning program, a free service that combines tutoring and mentoring with playground activities. The goal, organizers explained, is to provide more hours of fun for kids in between their school day and home life.
Gregg Crocker, who retired from District 21 after serving stints as principal of several of its schools, helped start the program 20 years ago. Now he operates it through partnerships with Harper Community College, HandsOn Suburban Chicago and Buffalo Grove, St. Viator and Wheeling high schools.
At each District 21 building, the after school classes meet twice a week for two hours. One hour is dedicated to completing homework and getting extra study help, followed by an hour of activities.
Enrollment varies from around 30 students at Cooper and London middle schools, about 75 at Riley Elementary, and up to 120 at Frost Elementary, Crocker reported.
“The kids are giving us an hour of academics, we need to do something to entice them to want to come to school,” Crocker said. “They walk out of school at 5:30 and their homework’s done and they feel good about themselves.”
Crocker said that type of educational experience helps ensure students stay engaged and committed to their education through high school.
“They might play chess or checkers or video games, but the idea is to develop a positive relationship,” he added. “We’re very proud of each of these programs. It’s a pretty simple concept.”
A collection of similar concepts is offered to students in the schools of Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary District 102.
Through a partnership with the Buffalo Grove Park District, Tripp and Pritchett elementary schools and Meridian Middle School provide free childcare assistance from 7 a.m. until classes begin.
Meridian also features a pair of after school play and learn sessions, including Club Meridian and its traditional after school program.
The latter takes place immediately after the end of the school day and runs until 3:45 p.m. The program typically attracts enough participants to fill three bus loads of kids going home, district officials said.
“It’s not just for the kids, it’s an opportunity for parents as well,” said Marsha Baldacci, a Meridian secretary. “You can’t beat it.”
After 3:45 p.m., Club Meridian takes over, giving parents who need to work late a place for their students to have fun and continue studying until 6 p.m.
The club does not offer bus service, though. Baldacci said the rates for these programs are adjustable, but are around $5 or $6 per hour.
Participation in both programs are on a first-come, first-serve basis, she said.
At District 96’s Woodlawn Middle School, many students enjoy the school’s after school Cooking Club.
At Stevenson High School, the beginning of the new year ushered in the return of Best Buddies.
Founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver two decades ago, the international nonprofit includes an Stevenson chapter that pairs student volunteers with classmates who suffer from intellectual or developmental disabilities. The goal is that two Patriots from different backgrounds can build a friendship.
One of the focal points for Best Buddies in 2012-13, group sponsor Lauren Frick said, will be to teach students the harm that can come from using “the R-word,” an offensive way to describe those with mental disabilities.
“We’re promoting kids to stop using the words ‘retard’ or ‘retarded,’” Frick explained.
Peer buddies are paired with classmates with disabilities to spend social time together every week. Program associates help organize the group’s field trips and other activities.
Frick, who leads the club with cosponsors Deanna Warkins and Josh Hjorth, said it is common for buddies and their peers to switch partners during the year.
“We can all still be friends, because it’s a friendship club,” she said.
Most of the participants enjoy having someone their own age to spend time with, Frick added.
“Many times, they’re in segregated classes,” she said. “This is their time to be a teenager.”