Our program meets on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during the school year, taking into consideration both the Boston Public School, Harvard University, and Wellesley College’s academic schedules. Student volunteers leave college campuses at 3:00, arriving in Chinatown a little before 3:45 to meet the kids and to walk to our site, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association building.
The first hour consists of homework help and tutoring. Homework time is the most important element of our program to our kids’ parents. The majority of them do not have the English skills to help their kids with English grammar, reading and social studies homework. Additionally, many parents must work long hours and are often times unavailable to help their kids.
During the last hour, kids do enrichment projects designed by their counselors, often involving arts and crafts, science, math, reading, writing and friendly competition. This is where the counselors get an opportunity to be really creative and give back to the kids. Between the two segments, the kids are encouraged to read, with plenty of appropriate books provided. Program ends at 5:45 and volunteers are back at their college campus around 6:30.
The almost 70 kids in our program age from 5 to 12 years. We divide the kids into 6 groups, each with approximately 9-15 kids, according to grade level. Each year, the kids reapply. Admission is based on residence in Chinatown, academic and/or social need for an afterschool program and attendance of our program and/or the summer program (Chinatown Adventure). We ask for a copy of latest report card and proof of residence.
Several families in Chinatown cannot afford the high prices of the other afterschool programs, such as Red Oak (located in the Quincy School) and ASP (After School Program on the first floor of Mass Pike Towers). Since we are the only free afterschool program in Chinatown, we are able to see successions of siblings go through our program. Furthermore, families learn about our program through their relatives and neighbors, so that many of the kids in our program are related to each other as either siblings or cousins.
Because of the structure of the Chinatown Afterschool program and the Chinatown Committee, we are able to follow our kids from the age of six when they first enter Group 1 of the Afterschool Program, through the Chinatown Teen program (grades 7 and 8) until they are junior counselors for the Chinatown Adventure summer program. With Chinatown Adventure, we are able to provide almost year-round supervision and activities for our kids. To learn more about these other programs, please visit the Chinatown Committee Website.
Our approximately 75 volunteer counselors come primarily from Harvard College and Wellesley College. With about 20 counselors on each day, we have a counselor to child ratio of 1:3. This allows for opportunities for group as well as one-on-one interaction with the kids.
All of the counselors who work with the same group of kids meet weekly. These meetings, often held over a meal in a Harvard dining hall or at a restaurant in Chinatown, serve as a curriculum meeting, at which counselors brainstorm project ideas. They are facilitated by a group coordinator (GC), who is responsible for checking on the general well being of the group and its individual kids and for making sure that projects are planned and executed. GC led meetings are also used to plan individual group field trips, such as sleepovers and trips to the movie theatre. Because 60 kids is a lot to tote around, we only take a few program-wide field trips. In the fall, we have a Halloween Party at Harvard, with activity booths in Currier and trick-or-treating in first-year dorms. We also have a fall-themed trip, such as apple picking or a trip to Wheeler Brook farm. At the end of the semester, there is a Parent Potluck. The spring semester is kicked off with an ice skating field trip. Towards the end of the semester, each group goes on a field trip organized by its counselors and GC. The end of the year is marked by a Parent Potluck!