Extended Day, Extended Year: DREAM’s Tradition of Afterschool Success

by | Oct 28, 2021 | 0 comments

As many know, DREAM’s history is rooted in baseball and the power of teams. But a continuation of that story shows DREAM’s equally deep roots in utilizing out-of-school-time programming to improve academic performance and further social-emotional growth among children in the communities it serves.

“Afterschool was how DREAM began,” says Andrew Waters, DREAM’s Director of Elementary Programs. “That acknowledgment and firm belief that kids need more support than what they may be receiving during the school day.”

Currently, DREAM provides free afterschool programming for students in kindergarten through 8th grade, creating more opportunities to drive key outcomes (in addition to DREAM’s free summer programming, which together form the foundation of the organization’s extended-day, extended-year model). Across the board, programming is centered on teambuilding and team-based concepts, while leveraging the power of relationships in informal settings. The goal is to create additional “at bats” for social-emotional work; athletics, health, and wellness; and continued academic enrichment.

“The more hours you get, the more impact you can have,” says DREAM’s Managing Director of Programs, Kalila Hoggard. “In most affluent communities, kids have a host of opportunities. We want to make sure our kids are getting exposure to those same opportunities.”

DREAM’s REAL Kids afterschool program services children in grades K-5, at DREAM’s schools in East Harlem and Mott Haven, as well as at public New York City schools in those neighborhoods. The REAL Kids team partners closely with each of these schools to determine goals and preferred outcomes, which helps them better structure the students’ experience and think about each day holistically—from the first morning bell to their evening pickup.

Students in REAL Kids receive programming in several areas, delivered throughout the week: social-emotional learning, physical activity, new experiences enrichment, and academics. For Waters, ​​the afterschool space is “the most responsible for fostering a love and passion for any activity that a child finds interesting,” noting that REAL Kids provides opportunities for students to participate in dance, yoga, alternative sports, and cooking classes. “Without REAL Kids, it’s hard for many schools to provide those opportunities for kids to pursue those interests,” he adds.

At the middle school level, Dreambuilders is the afterschool programming for DREAM’s East Harlem and Mott Haven students in grades 6-8. A continuation of REAL Kids, Dreambuilders also puts an emphasis on team building, community, and enrichment, while adding a focus on leadership. Throughout the afternoon, students engage in different activities and projects geared toward social-emotional learning, positive identity, and communication skills. While every day starts with a mindfulness session and homework help, students also participate in sports and movement activities, as well as their choice of club, ranging from the step team to karaoke.

“We want to make sure that our kids have a place where they belong, where they are supported to be their best selves,” says Reuben Harris, DREAM East Harlem Middle School Dean of Programs. “This goes back to DREAM’s Grow the Whole Child model. We can really dive into it deeply during afterschool, have fun, and make sure kids are getting the one-on-one attention they need to thrive.”

“In many places afterschool is just a childcare solution. Afterschool is part of our strategy. Extended day doesn’t just mean more hours. It’s an intentional, strategic way to extend and create those through lines.”

Kalila Hoggard, Managing Director of Programs

Combatting the Effects of the Pandemic
DREAM’s traditional models for both REAL Kids and Dreambuilders held true throughout the pandemic, with the focus on social-emotional growth and team building remaining the core component of DREAM’s afterschool work. But shifts have been made to ensure children are getting all they need to combat any pandemic-related effects. In the REAL Kids program, Waters says an emphasis has been placed on adult social-emotional learning this year—how his team of workers are preparing to lead classrooms full of students. In Dreambuilders, Harris says his team has been intentional about the leadership curriculum, using it to speak to social skills and communication, as well as any social-emotional gaps created by the pandemic. Getting students moving as much as possible has also been a large component of both programs, after a year in which many, by necessity, led more sedentary lifestyles.

The results have been compelling. Despite COVID-related limitations, 73% of DREAM’s youth in grades K-12 experienced growth in SEL competencies over the course of the last school year. Overwhelmingly, DREAM families also report that their child is learning what they need to succeed in college and beyond (97%).

Outside of DREAM, the REAL Kids program is also seeing its model succeed within the New York City public schools the program serves. “DREAM has served as a safe haven for our students and families by providing an afterschool program which offers academic activities, addresses the social and emotional wellness of our school community, promotes physical health, and provides a safe, structured environment for students,” says P.S. 18 Principal Lauren Sewell Walker.

It’s Not Just Afterschool
By pairing baseball with afterschool academic assistance 30 years ago, DREAM began its efforts to help children and families in East Harlem combat poor outcomes in local New York City schools. Now, that initial idea has transformed into DREAM’s extended-day, extended-year model, creating a seamless continuum of learning and engagement in and out of the classroom, all day and all year long. This model is an asset that sets DREAM’s schools and programs apart from its peer organizations.

Through REAL Kids and Dreambuilders, DREAM has been able to strengthen its relationships with students and families, assist students in their pursuit of academic success, and continue their social-emotional growth, even during the most trying times. Afterschool not only endures as part of DREAM’s offerings, but is core to the organization’s commitment to leveling the playing field for all kids.

“We see afterschool as part of the model, not just an add-on,” says Hoggard. “In many places afterschool is just a childcare solution. Afterschool is part of our strategy. Extended day doesn’t just mean more hours. It’s an intentional, strategic way to extend and create those through lines.”

<a href="https://blog.wearedream.org/author/liz_white/" target="_self">DREAM</a>


DREAM started in 1991 as Harlem RBI, a volunteer-run Little League for 75 kids in East Harlem. Three decades later, the organization serves 2,500 youth across East Harlem and the South Bronx through a growing network of inclusive, extended-day, extended-year charter schools and community sports-based youth development programs. By developing an education model that is responsive to the unique academic and social needs of every child, DREAM is creating a future where all children are equipped to fulfill their vision of success.

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