Students at Preparatory Academy for Writers Shine at PAW Jam
It wasn’t the first time that 7th-grader Jordyn and her fellow afterschool program participants danced in front of an audience. It was the first time the audience included police school safety agents and representatives from an elected official’s office — and Jordyn couldn’t have been more proud of herself and her team.
“We went hard and did great,” Jordyn said through a beaming smile. “I’m so happy for us!”
Jordyn is a student at M.S. 283 Preparatory Academy for Writers, where The Child Center of NY operates a high-quality afterschool program for more than 100 middle schoolers, affectionately nicknamed “Play After Work” (PAW) by Principal Charles Anderson.
“At PAW, we are passionate about our young people having enriching experiences that spark their curiosity,” says Program Director Candy Johnson. “Studies show that quality afterschool programming makes kids more engaged in the classroom. Middle-class and affluent kids have access to these kinds of programs, and it makes all the difference in their lives and their futures. Kids from lower-income communities don’t usually have these opportunities. They do with us, and they are becoming better learners because of it.”
Students at PAW engage in three hours a day of activity and instruction on dance, marching drum band, media productions, sports, or artistic expression.
“We create an environment where kids feel confident and proud trying new things. They explore their strengths and experience the tremendous confidence that comes from working hard and excelling at something,” Johnson says proudly.
Each December, the program co-hosts PAW Jam, a celebratory showcase that is a collaboration between the afterschool program, day school, and the larger community. Guests this year included representatives from NYC Council Member Donovan Richards’ office, as well as PAW police school safety agents, who participated in a riveting basketball game against faculty that set a tone of energy and camaraderie. There were also NYC-inspired skits and short films created by students in the media productions group and live performances by the dance group and the marching band.
By the end, guests were visibly moved by the amazing creations and accomplishments of the students.
“I am impressed with PAW,” said Ms. Hemley, whose son is one of the Elite Drummers marching band. “With most programs, day school and afterschool are separate. I like that they are integrated here. I’m glad my son has a drum mentor and talks about drum so much. He loves it.”
The Elite Drummers has a storied history with The Child Center. Two years ago, PAW alumna Kimani Isaac offered to teach drumming. The kids responded enthusiastically — even though there were no drums to practice on! They learned to play together on buckets and tables and received an ovation when they performed at The Child Center’s 2019 gala. With their incredible ability and story, they garnered the support of Council Members Donovan Richards and Adrienne Adams, and funding for real drums was secured through the Council Speaker.
Johnson notes that PAW students achieve so much because of an incredibly dedicated staff. Special thanks to Sports Instructor Garren Freeman, Artistic Director and Dance Instructor Daryll Caraballo, Drum Major Kimani Isaac, and Media Productions Specialist Christopher Thompson; and to Assistant Director Vanessa Hazzard, Principal Charles Anderson, and Assistant Principal Behr-Strong for making events like PAW Jam a success. Johnson also credits Principal Anderson with a keen appreciation for the arts and for keeping the link between day school and afterschool strong.
Principal Anderson returned the favor. “I want to thank the PAW Afterschool program and Mr. Chris [head of Media Productions] for putting on PAW Jam this year,” Principal Anderson said. “Great job!”
A week after PAW Jam, it became clear that the impact of the event would last long after the final act took the stage. During a field trip, 7th-grader Jeremiah, who participates in sports and dance, reminisced about the event and what he learned from it: “Don’t just set a goal, reach it!”