By Harvey Kaplan
The Center for Educational Innovation in collaboration with the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation have strived to create a meaningful after-school program for the students at the Charles O. Dewey Middle School, located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Eric Sackler, Principal. In keeping with the 21st Century Community Learning Center (the funding source) guidelines, the program is geared to meet the social, emotional, academic and recreational needs of the students. It is also designed to accelerate academic progress, in addition to offering a wide range of positive youth development activities. Principal Sackler commented, “The program is a perfect complement to our other after school programs”.
Site director Hero Tamakloe and his dedicated staff are committed to offering a creative mix of activities which include academic enrichment, visual and graphic arts, family/student celebrations, photography, yoga and recreation which features an extremely popular soccer program. When asked about the success of the program, site director Tamakloe said, “We care about the students and our passion and enthusiasm is evident”. The staff also reinforces the key tenets of the “Leader in Me” program that is taught during the regular school day.
Students are learning all about the game of soccer and how it is played. A crucial element of the instruction centers around the fact that successful soccer teams and players understand that this is a true team sport and that there is “no I in soccer”. Students learn that the team comes before the individual. Teamwork, sportsmanship, and cooperation are taught to the players on a daily basis by the site director and the soccer coach. The premise that there are “no mistakes on the field only lessons” is constantly shared with the team. When asked about the program and the soccer component, Anthony Orzo, CEI’s 21st CCLC Executive Director said, “The opportunities offered to the students at MS 136 are amazing and the soccer program is a great example of this.”
With the coming of spring, soccer has made the transition from the gym to the outdoors. Practice and games now take place in the schoolyard and the field that is located next to the school. Students are extremely enthusiastic about playing soccer and the program has put together a team that is now competing in SASF’s middle school tournament.
Soccer coach Josh Rivera remarked that “As a coach, it is very gratifying to see the team members mature and their commitment to each other. The team knows that working together and perseverance will make them successful no matter the size of their opponents”. At this juncture, the team is undefeated and sits atop their division. The soccer team is well positioned for the upcoming tournament which will be played on a regulation field on Randall’s Island.
The members of the team were asked to convey their thoughts, via a questionnaire, about being involved in the soccer program and what message they would like to share with their teammates and responded as follows:
“I would like to say thank you because when I did something wrong they always had my back and helped teach me how to play right”;
“All of my teammates got better and work as a team”;
“Thank you for giving me a chance as a beginner and all the patience it took”;
“A message I want to share with my teammates is to have fun and not get mad at each other”.
The lessons the players are learning not only about soccer but about life will resonate with them for many years to come and is a true measure of the success of the program.