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Shawn Smith

Title: ExCEL / SNBC After School Learning Program Site Coordinator

School: Francis Scott Key Elementary School

What do you like best about being a Site Coordinator with ExCEL After School?

As a Site Coordinator, what I enjoy most is seeing the positive difference that the After School Program has on students who are struggling behaviorally, academically or socially.  In the three years I have been at FS Key, I’ve spent a lot of time with students who are seeking negative attention from peers, and doing poorly on their academics.  By providing a physically and emotionally safe environment for children to learn and explore, I have seen these same students become better young people who are ready to take the right step towards success in Middle School. When students come to visit or even volunteer for the After School Program years after they’ve graduated, it reminds me of why I love my job so much. 

What are some of the challenges/barriers you’ve encountered?

Since I have been at FS Key, the After School Program has expanded from 160 to 290 students. Principal David Wong recognized the school community’s need for more spaces in After School, and subsequently, Mr. Wong and I have worked in close collaboration to expand the number of staff and students. Although the expansion has been challenging, I’m proud to say that we’re providing a top-notch program full of enriching activities, a robust elective class schedule, and a highly qualified and talented after school Program Staff.   

What has been the school/community reaction for the work you’ve done?

The school/community’s reaction to the work that our program has done has been overwhelmingly positive.  Parents speak to me regularly to express their gratitude for the support that the After School Program staff provides for their children. Many parents volunteer their time to assist the program in various ways.  We are grateful that the Principal and the FS Key day staff are very supportive of the After School Program as well. FS Key Teachers graciously work in collaboration with the after school staff in order to best support the needs of students, and make for a seamless transition between the school day and the After School Program.  After all, we share the same students!

What is a fun activity you do after school in your ExCEL program?

We often measure success in the After School Program by the amount of our students who are smiling, so we’re always aiming for our activities to incorporate fun! Each day at the start of program we play an all group game called “Dolphin Trivia” (the school’s mascot is a dolphin).  The game incorporates a different friendly competition each day to see which student gets to help make the daily after school announcements on the microphone.  Some days we simply ask a trivia question, but on other days we may have a dance competition, a Ro-Sham-Bo competition, a beat-box competition, or a competition to see which student can make one of our after school instructors laugh, etc.  The student who is determined as the winner (by our panel of staff judges) makes the daily announcements to the group on the microphone. As you can imagine, it’s fun for the whole group and allows the student making announcements to step into a leadership role.

What inspirational story can you share with us about one of your students?

We had a student join the After School Program at the beginning of his forth grade year.  His family had recently moved to the U.S., and he was having a difficult time making friends.  He was also getting in trouble a lot during after school for being dishonest and disruptive in class. Through getting to know him, we learned that he had a special interest and talent for singing. Upon learning this, his after school teachers and I began encouraging him to audition for the school Variety Show. We helped him prepare and gave him pointers along the way.  Through the process he discovered another boy in his after school class also had a love for music, and liked to rap.  They decided to work together on a song for the show, and quickly became friends.  In the end, the boys made it into the show and their act was a huge hit.  Throughout the process, I watched this student’s life change in front of my eyes.  The show gave him a chance to focus his energy on something positive. The confidence it gave him allowed him to form positive relationships with his peers and staff, while sharing his passion for singing with others. The following year was a highly successful for him, and he is still following his dreams of being a professional singer. 

Do you have any advice for parents of your students?

I don’t have advice for the parents of our after school students.  Rather, I’d like to thank them for allowing us the chance to work with their wonderful kids each day! 

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Student, Family and Community Support DepartmentSan Francisco Unified School District