LINK Club Offers Safe and Productive Afterschool Programs for ACPS Families
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To address the needs of many of our Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) students and families, our school division provides supervised after-school programming. The programming available can help develop the skills children need to make positive life decisions. Since 2018, ACPS has offered high-quality afterschool programs through its Linking Instruction Nurturing Knowledge (LINK) Club sites. LINK Club provides a safe and productive environment where students can be engaged in hands-on learning activities, receive help with their school work and develop new skills and interests.
With four new sites launched this school year, LINK Club now serves over 800 students in grades K-12 at 13 sites; eight sites are at schools and five are community based. Using an eligibility rubric to determine the socio-economic and academic needs of each applicant ensures the highest-need students at each school site are served.
During LINK Club, ACPS certified teachers work with the students to “link” the social-emotional and academic services received during the school day to the support provided during after school hours. This includes academic tutoring, homework help, project-based learning and social-emotional supports. Starting this year, ACPS teachers are implementing LINKing to Our Future Club at several of its sites, which integrates best practices from Project GLAD and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) to engage students in thematic exploration focused on being an agent of community change. Students also have a weekly STEMulation Club to brainstorm ways to solve everyday challenges and enhance their understanding of essential concepts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The LINK Club includes the RULER curriculum, an evidence-based approach to social, emotional and academic learning (SEAL) adopted by the school division in 2021. RULER activities help students understand the value of emotions, build emotional intelligence skills and maintain a positive school climate. Students also participate in weekly mentoring groups facilitated by Little Friends for Peace and Jireh’s Place, where they learn practical skills designed to teach compassion and empathy building, anger management, conflict resolution skills and empowerment. Middle and high school students receive additional support including monthly leadership workshops facilitated by Alexandria City High School students who serve as peer advocates in partnerships with the City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services. They also participate in weekly sessions facilitated by Capital Youth Empowerment Program that address attitudes and behaviors associated with dating abuse and domestic violence and build skills to empower them to reduce relationship and related risks. In addition, more than 20 local businesses and community organizations offer a variety of enrichment activities including robotics, chess, cooking, dance, art and theater.
“We are truly fortunate to have the support of community members whose mission is also to contribute to the growth and success of Alexandria’s youth,” ACPS Out-of-School-Time Manager Marisol Morales said.
Research shows that quality after-school programming supports social, emotional, cognitive and academic development. It also helps reduce risky behaviors as it provides a safe and supportive environment for students. “By providing high-quality after school programming at no cost to students in need, we help eliminate the gaps in academic achievement while also supporting families who can rest easy knowing their children are engaged in rewarding activities with their peers in a safe environment,” said Shanna Samson, assistant director of Extended Day, Strategic Initiatives and Program Development at ACPS. “In collaboration with community partners, we are wrapping our arms around some of our most vulnerable students, offering holistic services designed to increase their opportunity for success in school and in life. This is ‘equity for all’ in action.”
ACPS’ LINK Club operates 3-6 p.m. after school every day, across 40 weeks of the school year and eight weeks of summer. In response to the needs identified within the City of Alexandria’s Children and Youth Executive Plan, the program was designed collaboratively by the ACPS Office of Community Partnership and Engagement team with support from various ACPS departments and educational stakeholders.
Currently, LINK Club is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Center, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and various foundational grants. The program is made possible through essential partnerships with the City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority, Community Lodgings and Homes for America. LINK Club would not be possible without the incredible in-kind support, facility usage and staff supervision made available by these community partners.
Space is still available at select LINK Club locations. If you are interested in your child participating in LINK Club, please complete the application form in English or Spanish. Students are selected for available slots based upon academic and socio-economic need. For more information on LINK Club, please contact Marisol Morales, ACPS out-of-school-time manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Office of Community Partnerships and Engagement