The global pandemic has altered family life across the country and globe. From school closures to working remotely, our students, parents and educators all face the new challenge of how to learn and grow in a long-term virtual environment.
This story spotlights YES Prep North Forest ACE Coordinator, Jaimie Griffiths, and how she is using her passion for the arts and experience as an educator to merge creative learning projects with family fun.
Our Q&A session digs into Mrs. Griffiths’ story and how she is helping our students and families adjust to “The New Normal” while at home.
What is ACE?
ACE (Afterschool Centers on Education) is a is a grant-funded program that provides fun, engaging and rigorous afterschool learning programs for our YES Prep families. Our ACE team includes youth development specialists, who provide a level of creativity and quality of instruction that is outstanding. You can visit yesprep.org/ace to learn more about what we do and how we aid families all over Houston.
What's your story? What led you to become the ACE Coordinator for North Forest?
I’m an educator with over 15 years of experience dedicated to arts, youth and social injustice communities of Rockford & Chicago, Illinois. After earning my master's degree in Nonprofit Leadership from Columbia College Chicago, I contacted my hometown friend Eldridge Gilbert when relocating to Houston, Texas. In 2016, I became the ACE Grant Coordinator at YES Prep Northside before transferring to North Forest in 2018. My passion for the visual and performing arts as well as inspiring our youth and their families is how I approach every aspect of my life! North Forest gives me the opportunity to do what I love with a mission to build a full visual and performing arts department and focus on cultural excellence.
Tell me about some of the more memorable moments of your North Forest position?
One moment I still cherish was the smile on my Director of Campus Operation’s face, Aleece Lowe, in the summer of 2019. We were given the opportunity to collaborate with Comp-U-Dopt who provides high quality, hands-on, project-based tech skills through their STEAM TEAM and Learn2Earn curriculums. By the end of the year our campus received over 25 laptops. Students, staff and parents were shocked when they received nice quality laptops for FREE, upon completing the rich and engaging program.
Another moment that comes to mind is when we implemented a male mentoring group through ACE that has been much needed for our students. The group Boys II Men successfully began in January upon my return from maternity leave. We were able to serve an additional 20 students and extend the program over the summer virtually through our Turn Your Game On Club.
What has been the MOST meaningful impact you've made during your time as ACE coordinator?
The most meaningful impact that I’ve made is changing the stigma that afterschool programs are just free extended care for students who need a babysitter. This is just not the case. As Grant Coordinators, we impact our campuses by managing programs that give our youth the opportunity to expand and enrich their knowledge outside of the classroom. Through culturally engaging activities, students increase their academic and social emotional growth. ACE has given teachers the opportunity to build and strengthen their relationships with students, which ultimately impacts their academic growth to prepare them for college. In addition, ACE gives Staff and Alumni of YES Prep the platform to become life changing mentors through safe engaging environments that empower our students to thrive.
COVID threw us for a curveball! Can you share how you and the ACE program have had to adapt?
When we learned that students would be learning virtually and not returning physically to school, our ACE team did wonder what that would mean for our afterschool program. However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) provided our team with ample resources and support through town hall meetings and more. With the guidance, encouragement and support of our site auditor Dr. Lason Hines, we were challenged to create new innovative programming that would serve the whole family and be a support to our students in these devastating times. We use a variety of approaches and styles that include virtual learning, in-home family kits and in-person options. After consulting with our principal, North Forest decided the best approach for the summer would be Family Activity Kits.
What have been some of your favorite ACE projects this summer?
We were able to provide over 77 Family Activity Kits this summer! Ranging from Online Gaming, Soccer & More, Wellness & Self-care, Creative Showcase, Fun Treats and more! Although every club was “LIT!”, I have to say our Cookies & More and Splash ART clubs were among my favorite. Our students had a blast learning culinary and baking skills and creating art every day. The quality of talent and intelligence they shared was refreshing, rewarding, and relaxing for us all.
What impact does ACE have on our students and families?
ACE brings life-changing experiences to our students and families, experiences that they would not otherwise have access to. Especially during these more difficult times, I like to think that ACE is helping our students learn and develop long-term skills.
The ACE program gives YES Prep an opportunity to continue its mission of preparing and inspiring our students and supporting our families. ACE is currently in 10 YES Prep campuses. To learn more about ACE and the schools where this program is offered, click here https://www.yesprep.org/ace