According to asasny.com, there are as many as fifteen million children who have nowhere to go after school in the United States. The program and the people dedicated to it are working to give these children a safe haven.
After-School All-Stars is a national organization that was founded in 1993 in Los Angeles by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which he offered a place for at-risk children to go.
Originally the organization was called Inner-City Games Foundation, but changed its name to After-School All-Stars to better reflect the focus. The program is funded by the national organization and private donations.
Dr. James Pellow, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and Dr. Richard Sinatra, Project Director and Chairman of Human Services and Counseling, founded the NYC chapter of the ASAS at St. John’s, making it one of thirteen chapters in the country. Altogether, the organization works with 60,000 children across the country. Using a blend of academics, athletics and social skills, ASAS helps to improve the children’s lives in multiple aspects.
Alan Fields, the Executive Director, began as a fill in Executive Director in May 2006 before he became permanent after a year. “I love the program, the support of the staff and seeing the difference we make in the children’s lives,” said Fields about signing on to the program officially in May 2007.
Eric Stoddard, Director of Programs, is an alumni of St. John’s University, earning his undergraduate degree in 2005 in adolescent education, and his graduate degree in spring 2007 in school counseling. Before he was Director of Programs in May 2007, he was a graduate assistant in the school of education at the University and worked at CampUs for two consecutive summers.
“Making a difference and being Director of Programs allows me to experience a bigger piece of the puzzle,” says Stoddard.
In 1997, St. John’s University and ICGF created a summer program to help at risk children even more with CampUS. The camp takes place in July and has two different sessions, each lasting for two weeks. The program is funded through the New York City Housing Authority. “Summer is perceived as a time of loss of learning. Upper and middle class children have more opportunities to be exposed to learning experiences. At-risk children coming from low-income families do not have that. CampUS makes up for that perceived loss of learning,” says Fields. The children are from housing developments in the five burrows and are between the ages of 7-13. In total, the camp serves 1,250 students over the four weeks “The goal is that we believe the model of continued education and that if we engage children, then it will improve their grades and reap positive results,” says Fields.
The camp takes place between the hours of 10:00 am and 3: 30 pm. During the course of the day, the students take part in academics, various athletic activities, and recreational activities. 140 members comprise the CampUS faculty, including university students, coaches and professors.
The students of the University who work at the camp also receive a unique opportunity. If the students are education majors, they receive hands on experience with children and are given the opportunity to have the work be credited to a teaching experience course.
“The mission of St. John’s University is to help those less fortunate. Everyone involved in the organization believes in this value and because of that, it successfully demonstrates what people can achieve,” said Fields.
As an alumni himself, Stoddard enjoys giving back to the school that gave him so much. “St. John’s has been very kind to me. I enjoy being able to give back to the community that gave me a chance. People want to help the organization and are eager about it. You would not think a campus of 20,000 students could be so close knit,” said Stoddard. “The support from all of the departments of the University have been so helpful to us because they all believe in the mission. It is not only the environment, but also the people in it that make the program so great. The cooperation from top to bottom contributes to the success,” said Fields.
The University also gives out 36 $1,000 CampUs scholarships each year, and are chosen by the staff of the camp based on their overall abilities.
In Fall 2007, Shavone Williams became the first CampUs member scholarship winner to use her award at St. John’s University. “This is something the university is proud of. Kids want to win this scholarship so they come back every year.” Said Fields.
With programs like ASAS helping children reach their potential and work towards their ambitions, no doubt that the St. John’s and other Universities will have the best and brightest applying in the near future.