Exploring After-School Programs


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with SGA Family Services and Luke O’Toole Elementary School, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood.

I’m a student at Luke O’Toole Elementary School and I participate in two after-school programs called ST Math and Achieve 3000. ST Math was developed in 1998 by the Mind Research Institute, a California-based non-profit education group, according to eschools news. ST Math is a program on the computer in which we work with a penguin character named “JiJi” who knows nothing. We can teach him everything we know. At the same time, we are playing a game and practicing our math.

The ST Math Program was started in 2009 in 14 Chicago Public Schools on the South Side. The schools where the program is active have an average of 89% African American, 11% Hispanic and 4% other students, while 98% of the students get a free or reduced lunch, according to a report written by Dr. Shawn Smith, chief area officer.

With the Achieve 3000 computer program, we practice reading skills. We read stories and answer 8 questions about the story. If you get 4 or more correct you will get an award. Achieve 3000 helps kids with reading comprehension.

A student from John B. Murphy School on the Northwest Side of Chicago was asked if she used “JiJi” and Achieve 3000 at her school. “No. What’s that?” she said. After the program was explained to her, she confirmed that Murphy School does not use ST Math or Achieve 3000 as O’Toole Elementary does.

I interviewed Jay, a boy from O’Toole, and was surprised that he dislikes the ST Math program. “It’s a little confusing and sometimes boring. The questions on Achieve 3000 and JiJi help me with my work but it was hard at first,” said Jay. “My grades have gotten better and I pay more attention to what my teacher says. So I guess it is a good program.”

I myself like JiJi and Achieve 3000. Since I been in the after-school program, my grades have improved. Now I have an A in math and I have a B in reading. I could not have improved my grades without my after-school classes. I want my sisters and brothers to improve their grades too. I think all the schools should have these computers learning games because they are fun and they help kids improve in their school work.

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