A special thank you to 2018 IWF Grant Partner St. Mark Youth Enrichment for writing this guest blog. Learn more about St. Mark Youth Enrichment and other programs that received IWF grants in 2018 by clicking here

Supporting Children & Working Parents Through Quality Programming

St. Mark Youth Enrichment is a nonprofit organization that offers quality, out-of-school learning programs before/after school and in the summer, serving 550 at-risk students, grades K-5, both in Dubuque and Western Dubuque communities.

 

Like many communities in Iowa, Dubuque has a critical need for child care options. St. Mark addresses this need with affordable, safe, and engaging programs that foster a love for learning and support educational and social-emotional growth. The Iowa Women’s Foundation supports the crucial implementation of social emotional strategies that result in girls and mothers gaining social-emotional skills, as well as increasing access to the tools and resources to sustain their learning at home.

 

St. Mark invests in training staff in best practice social-emotional curricula and philosophies because when students feel safe and connected, they are willing and able to learn. One curriculum is Conscious Discipline that teaches adults composure and how to interpret behavior communication while also building skills like self-regulation and conflict resolution within students through tools that emphasize safety and connection. Single and working mothers are supported through ongoing mentoring with St. Mark staff to work through behavior plans that set the child up for success in program, school, and home. This October, a family engagement event will provide tool kits and hands-on lessons for these moms to hone skills in composure.

 

St. Mark is in the first years of implementing assessments to measure students’ growth in social-emotional skills. Most recent data shows that 83% of girls improved or maintained these skills. The following story captured by a program coordinator demonstrates the transformational power of these social-emotional efforts:

 

“I was informed by school day staff that I would likely need to remove four girls from our after school program at Lincoln due to safety-concerning behavior issues they were having during the school day. I went to the program and spoke with each of the four students individually, and they all said they wanted to be in program. I showed them the Safe Spot and walked them through the steps. Each of the students were reluctant to make eye contact, and appeared very “hard” and skeptical of me. I then asked them, “What’s the most important job of the adults in your family?” One girl said, “To do stuff like give me food and stuff.” I explained that the role of adults is always to keep kids safe, and that it’s my job and the job of kids to help keep things safe. From there I walked them through the Safe Spot, and told them when it would be appropriate to use it. When I got to the “cranky cream” the real magic happened. As I put lotion on their hands, I gently rubbed it in their hands and sang, “Bye by crankies, bye bye crankies, bye bye crankies, it’s time to say goodbye.” As I sang, they made eye contact with me for the first time and started to giggle. The “hardness” left their faces, and their childlike curiosity and wonder came out for the first time since I’d arrived. They immediately asked to go share the cranky cream with their friends and spent the rest of program making sure that each person there got cranky cream. Another coordinator returned the next day with materials for the four girls to make a Safe Spot for the gym, and they were very excited to do so. The whole experience was the start of making a unified School Family at Lincoln, and since that time, their creativity has exploded.”

 

To learn more about St. Mark visit the website: http://stmarkyouthenrichment.org/