2015-10-29 / Front Page

After-School Program Seeks Support from Community

By Olga Enger


Kimberly D'Arpino, a teacher at Gaudet Middle School, and other volunteers offer an after-school homework help session at Oxbow Farms. 
(Photo by Olga Enger) Kimberly D'Arpino, a teacher at Gaudet Middle School, and other volunteers offer an after-school homework help session at Oxbow Farms. (Photo by Olga Enger) It’s after school in Middletown, and a group of students run inside, grab a snack and open their backpacks to get started on their homework.

If this sounds a lot like home, that’s because a group of Middletown teachers have devoted three years of time and personal funds to create a nurturing after-school program for their students.

On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the program operates in Building 13 at Oxbow Farms in Middletown, which provides subsidized housing for lowincome families. The program is open to all Gaudet Middle School students, but they must provide their own transportation.

“It’s bigger than I ever thought it would be,” said Kimberly D'Arpino, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Gaudet, who started the program after budget cuts eliminated later buses. “The students who needed extra help the most were unable to get it, because they couldn’t stay after school,” she explained.

D'Arpino, who was named 2015 Teacher of the Year by the Middletown Education Collaborative, decided if the students couldn’t stay after school, she would go to them.

Three years ago, the management at Oxbow Farms gave her a shared space with the community police officer to provide homework help to students. By last year, the program had already grown out of the space, so when the Boys & Girls Club moved out of Building 13, D'Arpino jumped at the opportunity.

“We cleaned and we decorated. We brought in curtains, rugs, posters and a full kitchen,” she said. “It looks a lot like home for them. Since the kids come directly after-school, we found they were very hungry, so we began feeding them a light meal.”

This year, the program has exploded, and they often host 25 students.

“Consider cooking for that many kids, three days a week. I will ask anyone for help at this point,” said D'Arpino. Teacher donations and Walmart gift certificates provided by the Parent Teacher Group have funded the program.

Although Middletown’s Child Opportunity Zone (COZ) Program assists with administrative duties such as emergency contact forms, they do not provide funding. Nor is the program included in the district budget.

In order to meet the growing demand, D'Arpino created a GoFundMe campaign to ask the community to help. In the first two weeks they raised around $820 of their $2,000 goal.

D'Arpino said the program, which is the “best part of my day,” has developed into much more than just homework help.

“You know the need is there, but when you see it, see it in their faces, then you understand what this means to them,” she added. “They are developing social skills and manners. Sometimes we have whole families of kids that show up. They come in, they are excited, they do their homework, and they work together. It’s a second home to them.”

The Middletown Police Department sees the program as an outreach opportunity.

“Kim D’Arpino is really doing a great thing for those kids, said Middletown Major Ferenc Karoli. "I plan on visiting them and have encouraged officers to stop in and help with homework or even play ball for a while, to just engage the kids in a positive way. “

D’Arpino said she will use the GoFundMe campaign for furniture, to make the program feel more like home. She also hopes to bring in Internet connection and laptops this year.

Students have also asked about a summer extension program, which is something D’Arpino would like to explore in the future.

“I don’t know if it’s more for them, or more for me,” she laughed.

To donate to the after-school program, visit https://www.gofundme.com/gaudet-after-hours.

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