The “Striving For Excellence” Program has been selected by the United States Department of Education to take part in a national research study based on our strong promising practices and model programs in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and ILT (Increased Learning Time). The VCA is one of only 15 programs in the nation to be selected and one of even fewer to be selected for two program elements. A team of researchers will be on-site at the Valley for four days in the Fall. Upon completion, the VCA will be highlighted in a “Lessons Learned/Promising Practices” guide that will be distributed nationally to all 21st Century Community Learning Centers so that they can improve and refine their programs.
Striving for Excellence
After School Program…
The VCA’s “Striving For Excellence” After School program component offers different activities every day for the participating youth. The program runs Monday through Friday from 2:30pm-5:30pm. Every 45 minutes the children switch to a different activity, but always have Homework Help every day. Listed below is a description of the other activities:
Children receive help and assistance with all of their homework from school – Math, Science, English Language Arts, Social Studies, Spanish, and everything else in between! Eighty percent of the after school staff are either certified teachers or college education majors.
Skills learned in school are reinforced with fun computer games! Reading, Math, and Spelling programs build upon what is taught in school. Programs also teach problem solving skills and strategy. A Computer Instructor tracks each child’s progress and helps them in the areas where they need assistance.
One of the most popular activities of the after school program! Kids participate in a variety of age and developmentally appropriate games and activities including dodgeball, softball, soccer, hockey, bowling, kickball, football, and others.
Nature Ed-Ventures Science Program:
A hands-on exploration of all things science! Instructors are specially trained in teaching science and relating it to New York State Learning Standards in Science, Math, and English Language Arts. Kids learn about animals, nature, simple machines, the environment, and other science related topics. The Valley Nature Park & Habitat Trail, located behind the Valley Center, is used as an “outdoor living classroom”.
All of the kids get a chance to show their artistic talents in art class. Taught by a New York State Certified Art Teacher, the kids create art using different mediums, styles, materials, and techniques.
Community Service Projects:
An important part of the program, kids learn the importance of giving back to the community through various community service projects. Projects include neighborhood clean-ups, Valley Center clean-ups, Youth and Senior Citizen events such as dinners and socials, making “sunshine” and get well cards, holding car washes with the proceeds going towards the charity of the kids choice, visits to the Buffalo Animal Shelter to help with feeding and walking the animals, and various other projects.
Prevention Workshops & Trainings:
Workshops and trainings are conducted that address the important issues of drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco use, self-esteem, body image, character development, life skills trainings, and other age appropriate topics. Outside agencies come and present and the Valley Center also has a professional prevention specialist on staff who conducts weekly sessions with the youth.
Various family social events are held throughout the year so that youth, their families, and VCA staff can interact in a fun, social setting. Events include a Back To School Pizza Party, Halloween Dance, Family Thanksgiving Dinner, Holiday Party, Youth Talent Show & Dinner, and End of the Year Awards Picnic.
Field Trip Days are fun days with trips all over Western New York! Trips include Niagara Falls, the Aquarium of Niagara, the movies, Bisons Games, roller skating at Spinners Family Skate, the Buffalo Zoo, bowling, sledding, and other exciting places to visit!
One on One Science Mentoring:
A collaboration with First Hand Learning, youth are paired up with a science mentor in a one on one setting. The pairs explore any science related question the youth may have – after asking the question, an experiment is devised to obtain the answer!
Other activities are also a part of the “Striving For Excellence” Youth Program:
High School & College Assistance:
Seventh and eighth grade students and their parents can get assistance in learning about potential scholarships for private high schools or help with the selection of, and entrance into, public high schools. Eleventh and twelfth graders and their parents receive counseling on higher education options including college and vocational schools and assistance in completing needed college forms (such as the FAFSA) and entrance applications and essays.
Girls, Boys & Teen Club:
The Clubs are “social clubs” that are held after the after school program. The Girls, Boys, & Teen Clubs all meet on different days of the week, with each group doing different activities such as watching movies, arts & crafts, exploring the Valley Nature Park & Habitat Trail, field trips, and more.
Various night-time recreation leagues and tournaments are scheduled Tuesdays through Saturdays after 5:30pm. Leagues include basketball, floor hockey, volleyball, soccer, softball, and more. In addition “open gym” times are scheduled for youth to pick whatever they want to play.
A variety of summer programming is offered from the end of June to the beginning of September, including a day time Summer Day Camp (see Child Care – Summer Day Camp) and “Prime Time” – an afternoon/night program for older youth.