The After-School All-Stars (ASAS) program at Sandy Springs Charter Middle School (SSCMS) has been inspiring students to be excited about school and to learn new skills since 2009. Our valuable partnership with ASAS Atlanta, led by Dr. Walt Thompson, ASAS’s Executive Director and Associate Executive Director Lyndsy Greene, makes it possible for us to provide unique experiences to SSCMS students. The Sandy Springs site is the only ASAS Atlanta program outside the City of Atlanta and is a program of Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development.
Thompson launched the after-school program in Atlanta in 1999 after multiple years of running a successful summer program for children in the City of Atlanta. He explained the after-school component was born to provide resources and programming that would have a longer-term impact on the students than a summer program alone. The goal was to offer a safe place for middle schoolers to learn and participate in extra-curricular opportunities.
ASAS clearly taps into Thompson’s passion for helping kids succeed in school and in life. He explains, “I was not a good kid…I want to prevent kids from getting into the kind of trouble I got in as a kid.” Lyndsy remarked on why it is especially important to serve middle schoolers, “Little kids (in elementary school) are cute, teens have jobs and sports, but middle school kids can feel lost and forgotten.” ASAS ensures kids are not only not forgotten, but that they receive a mix of academic support, enrichment and wellness.
When they launched ASAS Atlanta in 1999, there were no models for middle-school after-school programs, Thompson explained. They built the program up, adding more schools as they went. Today, ASAS Atlanta runs programs in 23 sites after school and eight comprehensive summer programs, serving 3600 students a year. ASAS Atlanta is supported by grants from several local philanthropic foundations as well as government grants.
The program started at SSCMS as a result of a generous donation from long-time, valued SSEF supporter, the Couchman Noble Foundation. They saw the need for an after-school program to engage and encourage kids who didn’t have a parent at home to supervise them at the end of the school day. Their donation allowed SSEF to become a partner with ASAS. Today, SSEF raises funds to continue to support this program.
Thompson remarked on how lucky they are to partner with SSEF in Sandy Springs, “SSEF is a hands-on partner,” he noted. When there’s a programmatic challenge or administrative hiccup, for example, he and Greene can call on SSEF to step in to help. Greene agreed, “SSEF has the same vision as ASAS, which makes for a great partnership.”
To what does Thompson attribute the success of ASAS? “We don’t provide a set curriculum” for the academic piece of the program, he explained. “We let teachers teach and students learn at their own pace.” It’s clearly working well. In every site, students involved in ASAS perform better academically than peers not in the program. In addition, participants have less school absences. However, this program isn’t only about doing better on tests. Students have an opportunity in every session to participate in an enrichment activity. At SSCMS, these have included diverse programs, including karate, fashion design and robotics, just to name a few.
ASAS allows kids to earn prizes, such as special field trips and parties, for example, to reward their work at school. Middle school students in City of Atlanta programs have even earned trips to visit colleges and universities. SSEF Executive Director, Irene Schweiger hopes to be able to provide a college trip to students at SSCMS this year if funding is found. “A college visit can inspire students who have never considered attending college, or may be the very first in their families to pursue a post-secondary degree. We would love to be able to provide an on-campus visit and tour opportunity for our ASAS students at Sandy Springs Charter Middle School. “
Ultimately, ASAS serves the entire community, Thompson explained, as it allows parents to be comfortable staying at work while their kids are safe after school. The students who participate report that the program significantly impacts their trajectory in middle school and beyond. Aji John, Phalne Hammond and Vanessa Lovinsky participated in ASAS as students at SSCMS and are now in their senior year of high school at North Springs. The girls were so compelled by their participation; they came back to SSCMS to volunteer with the program when they started high school. Phalne says, “We made friends and experienced so many new things. But most of all ASAS helped us see that we could succeed in school. The program gave us confidence and direction so that we can make our futures our own.”
SSEF is grateful for the partnership with Dr. Walt Thompson and Lyndsy Greene at ASAS Atlanta. Without their support, we would not be able to offer this amazing and successful program to students at SSCMS.
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