For middle school students, connecting with other students can be difficult. With schools in a virtual setting it proves to be even more of a challenge. Lanier MS After School Specialist Julio Dejo had to adjust his program to find ways for students to meet and bond over shared interests, all while being at home. “We worked all summer to make sure we offered as many activities as we could to reach as many students as we could,” said Dejo.
Dejo was able to speak with his colleagues at nearby middle schools such as Rocky Run MS, Liberty MS, Franklin MS and Stone MS to join forces and offer a number of programs from athletics, cooking, art, debate and gaming that would allow students to connect with each other, meet new friends and explore new interests. By joining forces with other schools in the region, the after school specialists were able to offer a wider variety of choices for students than if they just worked independently. The students were also asked to create their own clubs and Dejo was able to match with teacher sponsors.
Students are able to sign up for an activity Monday through Friday after school from 2:30 – 4:30. The teachers meet at least once a week with the group and use an online classroom like setting to post updates and check in with club members. “We want to make sure that students are engaged, meeting other kids and seeing their club sponsor,” said Dejo.
“We have always been proud of our after school programming and the work Mr. Dejo does to build relationships,” said Dr. Tammara Hanna, principal of Lanier Middle School. “This year more than ever, our students have found the need to make connections and build friendships outside of the virtual learning school day. Many have come up with creative ideas to start new clubs that meet regularly, and they are meeting new friends with similar interests from other FCPS middle schools. What a fabulous things for our students during a pandemic!”