Afterschool, Monday through Friday, Bronx youngsters can be found working on math problems by cutting colored paper into shapes and sizes to visually solve fractions, participating in spelling bees and word games and listening to Billie Holiday songs to learn about how jazz contributes to African-American history at Police Athletic League’s (PAL) After School Programs at PAL’s New South Bronx Center, PAL’s Webster-Giannone Center in Fordham-Tremont and PS 48 in Hunts Point. Children in first through eighth grades rotate through academic, arts and recreation and wellness programming as part of their weekly routine. The academic portion, PAL SMARTS, is designed to improve academic achievement by engaging children in educational enrichment activities that enhance school day lessons and are aligned with New York State Education Standards for reading and math.
After the school bell rings, PAL provides help with homework for the Bronx youngsters to stay on top of their studies. “I was having a hard time with my math homework, but Ms. Norma helped me to understand how to complete the problems by breaking them down,” said eight-year-old Christabel from PAL’s Webster-Giannone Center. “Now I am able to keep up with my work, and, if I need any help or don’t understand something, I know she is always there for me.”
The learning doesn’t stop after homework is completed, because young people are also engaged in educational activities to build literacy in reading, writing and arithmetic. These basic skills are improved through the PAL SMARTS curriculum of monthly themes and community service projects. Children in first through fourth grades take part in activities including creative writing, reading time, storytelling, math games and spelling bees, while young people in fifth through eighth grades work on project based group learning and computer literacy.
“Our PAL SMARTS program is designed to supplement what our kids are already learning in school and enhance it with hands-on experiential activities that make learning fun and memorable” said PAL Executive Director Felix A. Urrutia Jr. “Through PAL SMARTS, boys and girls spend their time productively and come to understand that literacy is more than spelling, grammar and punctuation. Literacy is about acquiring and applying basic life skills, such as making an effort, paying attention, honesty, following directions, being responsible, completing tasks, cooperating and empathizing with others.”
PAL SMARTS is offered after school each afternoon at fulltime PAL Centers throughout the five boroughs. In addition to providing support to young people, PAL SMARTS also involves parents in the education of their children. Parents have the opportunity to attend topic workshops and social events, and they are handed evaluations of their child’s homework and positive classroom actions. When asked, 98% of parents said PAL SMARTS helped their children with behavioural issues. One mother said, “My son was not thrilled about school, but PAL helped him read and write. He gets excited about going to PAL every day.” The result of PAL’s After School Programs is measured by its success. In 2008-2009, 97% of PAL SMARTS children who were in danger of being left back were, instead, promoted to the next grade.
To learn more about PAL SMARTS and PAL’s After School Programs that run through June, please contact the PAL Center in your neighborhood:
PAL’s New South Bronx Center
991 Longwood Avenue
Bronx, NY 10459
PAL’s PS 48
1290 Spofford Avenue
Bronx, NY 10474
PAL’s Webster-Giannone Center
2255 Webster Avenue
Bronx, NY 10457
New York City’s Police Athletic League is the first, largest and finest civilian-run PAL in the country. Founded in 1914, PAL has served the city’s young people for 97 years. PAL provides recreational, educational, cultural and social activities to over 56,000 boys and girls annually. It is also the city’s largest, independent, nonprofit youth organization, and the best friend a kid can have. For more information, please visit www.palnyc.org.