Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week
The week of April 24-28 is Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week and here at Aspire, we’re excited to kick the week off with a behind-the-scenes look into our amazing program team! None of our work would be possible without them and we can’t express enough how grateful we are for the hard work they do every day. Aspire’s three permanent program staff members are in charge of running our afterschool and summer learning program, and their dedication to our students means that they go above and beyond by providing them with academic and social-emotional support. So who are they?
Anna Faulkner is the Program Director at Aspire. She’s been with Aspire since 2016 and has played a key role in growing the organization’s capacity while also emphasizing ways to make education more meaningful, culturally appropriate, and fun for historically underserved communities. She also oversees program evaluation, making sure that we’re ensuring quality as well as growing the number of students we can serve.
A fun fact about Anna is that she’s hiking the whole Appalachian Trail in bits and pieces, and recently finished a large section of it. When she’s not at Aspire, she can frequently be found outdoors!
Gaby Moore is the Program Manager. She conducts regular coaching and training with AmeriCorps members, communicates with schools and other partners, and creates a welcoming and positive environment for students, families, and AmeriCorps members. Before joining Aspire as a staff member, she served at Aspire as an AmeriCorps member.
Gaby brings a sense of joy and silliness to Aspire, such as by hiding mini plastic babies for our students to have fun finding! These babies have been found perched on artwork, on door handles, on top of the fridge, in the cushions of the library, and in Anna’s pockets.
Victoria Park is the Program Associate and newest member of the program team. She joined Aspire’s staff after serving as an AmeriCorps member for several years and brings her experiences to create a safe space for students to foster their creativity and passions. She’s amazing at organizing lots of information to ensure students have a fun experience at Aspire. For instance, she organized our holiday gift registry to make sure that every student received exciting presents over their winter break. She also runs Sticker Store every other Friday, where students can exchange the stickers they earned by going above and beyond for fun prizes.
Victoria also loves cats, and she especially loves sending funny cat memes to the Aspire team.
We also have 16 AmeriCorps members who serve with Aspire. They’re the ones who lead our classrooms, plan lessons, pick students up from buses, work closely with students every day, coordinate volunteers, check in with parents, administer and analyze tests to see where students are struggling, and more!
The Importance of Afterschool
Aspire’s dedicated program staff make it possible for Aspire to provide high-quality support to our 120+ students. Afterschool programs equip students with the tools they need to grow and succeed, especially coming out of the pandemic. Many of our students are entering further behind than our previous cohorts, and we know that schools can’t make up for lost learning alone. Studies have found that afterschool programs have a positive impact on student academic achievement and that they increase parent engagement. Moreover, 90% of students in Aspire’s program historically improve their reading rate each year!
Afterschool professionals play a critical role in the development of children. Even beyond their academics, afterschool programs provide a safe place for students to go during a long day of school while many of their parents are still at work. That’s why Aspire supports the whole child, not just the student. We do this through daily social-emotional lessons, a daily hot meal, and opportunities for children to direct their own learning, in addition to academic and homework support. Aspire’s top priority is always the well-being of our students, and our program staff build important and meaningful connections with each of our students. Once again, we’re so grateful for our amazing program staff and AmeriCorps team for supporting students every day!