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Reavis Students Showcase Afterschool Talents

On a rainy spring evening at Reavis Elementary in Kenwood, the hallways were lit and bustling. Three seventh-grade girls in cheerleading outfits leapt and waved their pom-poms, shouting, “Hi, welcome to the showcase!” 

Nia Brown, right, a Reavis seventh grader, shows off her science display to her mother and her sister.

Gordon Walek

Down the hall, past the welcome table, a group of adolescents gathered around a video screen, laughing at images of each other beating out rhythms on drums or table tops, or chanting original rap songs.

More than 200 parents turned out on April 21 for an event showcasing Reavis’ Elev8 after-school programs, launched last fall with a grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies. Kids say the activities – ranging from digital music, to science experiments, to cheerleading – keep them out of trouble, help them develop new interests and, in some cases, even increase motivation for schoolwork.

Principal Michael Johnson credited the enthusiasm generated by the after-school programs for boosting parent participation at school events. “I think the children are inspired, and it rubs off on parents,” he said. “Parents sense that their children are engaged in some really cool stuff.”

This table holds a variety of projects including an Aztec papier mache mask.

Gordon Walek

The school’s 15 clubs are aimed primarily at students in the sixth to eighth grades, enrolling 75 for the spring session.

Realizing that some had babysitting responsibilities which would prevent their participation, Reavis also arranged activities for 20 of their younger siblings.

At the Sisters4Science table, seventh-grader Nia Brown held up a plaster mold of an extinct marine animal. “It’s a trilobite,” she explained to several onlookers, including her mother.

The club, led by the non-profit Project Exploration, encourages minority girls to pursue science careers. Ten Reavis girls learned engineering principles while constructing a bridge from toothpicks and marshmallows and discovered the properties of chemical solutions while working with a research scientist to create their own cosmetics. Nia’s favorite project: dissecting a sheep’s heart.

Some clubs build on classroom learning. In an arts-and-crafts club with a history theme, sixth-grader Eugene Kittler designed a colorful Aztec Mask with papier-mâché and acrylic paint, using information from his social studies textbook.

A Reavis art project involved coloring transparent paper to resemble stained glass.

Gordon Walek

Other clubs present career possibilities. In a club led by an Art Institute of Chicago graduate, eighth-grader Montana Wilkins learned about seven different genres of photography including portraiture, advertising, photojournalism, and nature photography.

But it was the digital music club, where he learned sound engineering, which gave him a new career ambition. “I want to be a music producer,” he said.

Kids and their parents applauded the programs for providing a positive influence in an often dangerous neighborhood. Eugene Kittler said that afterschool activities – he also signed up for acting club and a dance class – keep kids “motivated and active” and out of the reach of gang members who congregate near the school.

Anniece Sherrod, whose seventh-grade son helped design a mural with an environmental theme, said she liked how the programs build real-life skills, like teamwork. But “it also helps parents be aware of where their children are after school,” she said. “That helps a lot."

Connie Thompson, who has six grandchildren from kindergarten through the seventh grade enrolled after school, likes that “it gives the children things to think about other than video [games.]” But more than that, she added, “It helps these kids know what they can do to fulfill their potential. It helps them learn what they want to be.”

Posted in Education, Quad Communities

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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