When AYS began its involvement at Clarence Farrington School 61, it became clear that the needs of the school aligned well with what the Pacers Foundation supports. According to their website, “The Foundation awards grants and contributions to Indiana-based nonprofit organization… with a particular emphasis on education activities/programs.” The grant purchased new art supplies, physical activity equipment and storage for the equipment for the AYS program at Clarence Farrington School. In addition, the grant supported AYS’ partnership with Peace Learning Center and Arts for Learning to visit the program and provide activities for the children. The Peace Learning Center focused on teaching the children about social emotional learning, and even held training for AYS staff in restorative practice and restorative justice. Arts for Learning led the children in dance sessions and music demos, to teach collaboration while also encouraging creativity. According to AYS’ Associate Director of Program Services and Enrichment Keith Monfreda, “The kids have to learn how to work together.”
When Whitney Smith took on the role of AYS program director at this site, she created Family Nights to engage the parents along with the children. These Family Nights were created to draw in kids and their parents. By providing dinner, the stress of making a meal is off the parents’ shoulders, and it also provides a social space for them to interact with their children, the families of their child’s friends, and those who care for their children outside of the school day. The nights are focused on fun, and fun for the whole family. Monfreda states, “A lot of parents show up because they want to be involved.” The effects of these programs are easy to see, simply in the attendance at family nights, or the behavior of the children.
At Clarence Farrington, the school staff is also asked to check in on the students, specifically in how they behave in and outside of the classroom. Things like ability to solve conflict respectfully, or the self-sufficiency of a student and whether or not he asks for help on homework frequently, or solves the problem himself. Each student’s progress is tracked by those who look out for them every day and the effects and teachings of the programs provided by Arts for Learning and Peace Learning Center.
Through opportunities like the Pacers Foundation grant, AYS is able to enrich the lives of children in our locations across central Indiana, not just in academics, but in arts and emotional development as well.