The Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program provides federal funding for the creation of community learning centers that provide academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities for children, particularly students who hail from underserved communities. At it's core, the program focuses on key academic subjects such as reading, math and science. This program is also intended to offer students a broad array of activities and to include families and the community in the educational process.
However, this program wouldn't be successful without the countless dedicated and engaged staff who's passion is to help young children develop into well rounded adolescents and ultimately, productive citizens.
Eddie Fernandez, a 5th grade Science teacher at Luis Muñoz Marin Elementary School is one of those individuals. He recently sat down with ASPIRA staff member Luinis Sosa to briefly chat about his role, the impact of the program and what it means to him. Check it out below!
LS: So, how long have you worked with ASPIRA and the 21st CCLC program?
EF: I've worked with ASPIRA and the 21st CCLC program for about 6-7 years now, and it has been an amazing experience. I truly enjoy working with you (Luinis) and the ASPIRA staff, the school administration, and most of all, the students and their parents.
LS: Students are often shy when it comes to learning new things. What are some of the daily things that you do with ASPIRA and the 21st CCLC to build them up?
EF: I let our ASPIRA students know, that they're special/ perfect just the way they are. I focus on social-emotional learning. I simply let the kids know that I care about them. I build their confidence and self-esteem by genuinely having fun with them on daily basis (Science, STEAM based projects, activities, classic movies, Kahoot! games, Netflix series, Disney +, etc. Whatever it takes for them to know that we appreciate them and we are here to help.
LS: What is the biggest challenge that you face on a daily basis?
EF: I thought the hardest part would be teaching virtually, but it’s been AWESOME! ASPIRA has really made the process seamless. The kids trust me and the staff, so they open up more, and we have a blast every day after school. Each session is designed to address the areas where they need the most help, but not without injecting some fun into each and every activity. ASPIRA is the best part of my day.
LS: What is the best part of working in and with ASPIRA and the 21st CCLC?
EF: The kids, the staff, and our mission/ purpose. Often, the regular school day is too structured and stringent. There's little room to "socialize" and check in with our students on social emotional level. This is where ASPIRA excels. We get to chat, laugh, play football/baseball, watch Disney movies, and speak with their parents. We're definitely a family, and it shows!!
So there you have it! If you'd like to learn more about the Luis Muñoz Marin Elementary School or the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, click below: