In addition to aligning afterschool activities with school day goals, the Instituto Abayarde team uses the flexibility of their 21st CCLC to allow students to explore interests and gain career experience.
“Afterschool provides space for exploration that the school day cannot do,” says project director Michael Hannan. “During the [school] day, students must be focused on earning credits in the subject areas that are required for graduation: language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts. Afterschool allows high school students the opportunity to really explore the world of applied skills in a variety of fields.”
Afterschool enrichment activities like photography, robotics, and culinary club are based on student input and interests and are also structured to help students learn important job skills. During photography club, for example, students learn the elements of business management and other job-readiness skills like teamwork, time management, planning, and money management, in addition to learning to take and display photos.
The Instituto Abayarde team sees their career and technical education programming as especially important because Chicago has a high rate of teen and young adult unemployment, which is concentrated in low-income and minority neighborhoods. At the same time, there is demand for trained workers in areas like health care, hospitality, advanced manufacturing, and IT. The 21st CCLC team wants to close this employment gap by fostering a sense of agency among students and helping them prepare for careers instead of jobs. “Our goal is to prepare teens to make informed choices upon graduating high school,” says Hannan. “Some will choose college, others may go straight into wage-earning jobs. Our program should reveal to students that there are pathways to careers after high school that will provide them with wages that are high enough to support themselves and their families in the future.”
To ensure staff are equipped to support the youth in their program, the 21st CCLC has partnered with local colleges and universities to provide professional development to afterschool staff in areas like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). To address expressed student interests, the team is also working with the National Restaurant Association to provide training in hospitality and culinary arts. “Finding the right staff is key,” says Hannan. “They do not have to be experts in CTE, but they have to have a passion for helping students find their path and a willingness to learn new skills and content.”