I would like to present to you a program addressing not only the issue of youth violence but more importantly "being considerate of one another" instituted last year at our high school, Cranston East.
Before describing Cranston High School Eastís after school programs, it is important to understand that they are not done in isolation.
Throughout the 1997-1998 school year at Cranston East, new activities were created and some old activities were re-energized. The focus of these activities is to develop and support school leaders who promote honesty, responsibility, tolerance and respect. Efforts have been successful in mobilizing students, parents and staff to be pro-active around issues of violence, drugs and harassment.
In-school programs such as: Students as Mediators, Students Opposed to Substances, the Student Leader Assistance Program, Peers as Leaders, as well as Project Respect, teach and support student efforts to recognize and solve problems. Through outreach programs within the school and community many potential problems have been prevented. During the past year there also has been outstanding response to our "Green and White" Club which promotes school spirit.
All of these programs are pro-active and vital to the fabric of Cranston East. They serve as the web of support which encouraged Cranston East to look to activities beyond the regular school day. Beginning in August, 1997, Cranston East held our first annual orientation/cookout for incoming freshmen and their parents. This was held from 4 - 8 PM on the Thursday prior to the opening of school. About 800 people attended (a second annual event is scheduled for August 27, 1998). Local businesses donated food and drinks: my office provided a huge tent: faculty and staff, the Liaison Police Officer and D.A.R.E. Officers, volunteered to help. Student "peer leaders" called every ninth grade student to give them a personal invitation. Students and parents had an opportunity to meet administrators and staff, as well as tour the buildings and become better acquainted with the facilities prior to the first day of school.
Also, at this time, greetings from the school are given by Cambodian and Spanish Liaison Instructors. As a follow up activity PALís (Peers as Leaders) meet with 9th graders for five consecutive Tuesdays to solidify the transition to the high school.
This effort toward a personalization activity and we are convinced that it set the tone of cooperation which greatly reduced anxiety levels for students, parents and staff.
With a small amount of grant seed money we initiated two activities:
1. Provide a late bus on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
2. Provide Cranston High School East T-shirts to students and faculty.
The late bus proved to be a huge success. Students and parents felt secure in knowing that they had transportation and the designation of Tuesday and Thursday allowed everyone the opportunity to schedule accordingly. The bus route was designed to cover key routes within our district.
The T-shirts have served as an emblem of school spirit and pride. Students, faculty, parents, alumni, police and fire officers and visitors to our school regularly were the shirts to school events.
On a typical Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, a visitor would see a great deal of activity at Cranston High School East
In the gym, up to 90 students might be playing basketball. A quick look reveals that boys and girls of all abilities and all races are actively participating.
In the gym foyer, members of the Pacific Rim Club (many of our Cambodian student population) are playing music and "break dancing." Many perform helmet-protected head spins under the watchful eye of the club advisor.
In the weight room, students are lifting and engaged in various workouts. Here, students who are athletes as well as "non athletes" are encouraged to participate for the benefit of health and conditioning.
In an empty room or corridor area, a teacher is conducting an aerobics class. Again, all types of students are represented.
Another area in the new gym wing is active with three very different dance activities. In one, are the Latina girls dance group and in another area is the Skillz dance group made up of young African-American women. Both areas are very much alive with music as the dancers have fund and rehearse for presentations they will make at pep rallies, "March Madness" and Cultural Appreciation Week.
The third group of "dancers" are learning ballroom dancing from the owner of a local dance studio. He and an assistant have volunteered for four weeks to teach ballroom dancing to interested students.
In the school auditorium, an advisor meets with approximately 75 students of the "New World Coalition" group. This group not only meets socially, but actively proposes and implements school activities sensitive to minority issues.
In a classroom, students prepare to take a CPR class provided free of charge by the Cranston Fire Department.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays at the schoolís computer labs are available and supervised for students use. The library is open. Peer tutoring is available. Also, many teachers will often "tutor" students on Tuesdays and Thursdays and students are free to use the late
bus at 3:45 PM. It should also be noted that detention is held on Tuesday and Thursday. These students are also permitted to ride he late bus. As we gain momentum with the after school program, we are noticing a decrease in detention students and an increase in activity students and we feel very positive about this.
At the end of April, 1997, a whole week was dedicated to diversity appreciation. Activities on race and racism, ethnic dances, sports, and performances were held. The week culminated with a "Diversity Bash" from 2:15 - 4:00 on Thursday. Student performances and international food tasting took place in the auditorium, gym and cafeteria. Again, this event was preceded by many previous Tuesday and Thursday preparation sessions.
My administration and Cranston Eastís administration and staff embrace the philosophy that a school of 1,500 students, 150 faculty and staff members and two large buildings in the center of the city needed to become more "personalized." Through personalization, we felt we could encourage tolerance and understanding, but more importantly, we would strive to equip students and faculty with the skills necessary to recognize the strengths and advantages of a diverse population.
Our belief was, and is, that being pro-active in terms of promoting a safe and orderly school environment, during and after school hours, would reduce acts of violence insure safety in our buildings and develop a sense of community pride and responsibility.
Our after-school program at Cranston High School East came in to existence for basically three reasons:
1. In response to our academic probation by NEASC, we felt the traditional school day should maximize "time spent on academic tasks."
2. We felt after-school programs would create a "connection" to our school, which had been virtually empty after school hours.
3. In response to our local police information, as well as information disseminated by the RI Attorney Generalís office, we recognized that students needed "positive" things to do for the 18 hours they were not in school.
Cranston East continues to change in terms of population and we must continue to learn from each other. We cannot assure that what worked before will work again. By being pro-active and creating opportunities we can be successful. Cranston East needs whole community involvement to be successful. Working in isolation wonít bring lasting positive results.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.