Relationships are at the heart of Right At School — from the relationships that students form in our programs with our educators and with each other, to the bonds that we form with our district and school partners.
Establishing and nurturing successful partnerships has been a core part of my work since I joined Right At School in 2015. I started as an area manager in Texas, then was promoted to regional director. In both of these roles, I was responsible for ensuring that our enrichment programs were top-quality and delivered as promised in every district.
In my current role as Director of School Partnerships, I continue to work closely with district and school leaders to ensure that Right At School is interwoven into the fabric of their communities. That’s when Right At School is at its best!
I also regularly attend conferences to help educate superintendents about our programs so they understand that they have options — and that they no longer have to settle for after school programs that offer little more than babysitting.
Here are a few of the things that make my job at Right At School so rewarding.
Programs that meets local needs.
Communication is the key to starting a partnership that truly supports district needs and priorities. Some districts I’ve worked with say literacy is their top priority. For others, it’s social-emotional learning (SEL). Districts may also have behavior expectations or language (e.g., calling children “scholars” rather than “students”) that are an integral part of their culture. By engaging in a two-way dialog, we can tailor our programs to create a seamless transition from before school to the school day to after school.
That’s another thing I love about working here. We don’t take a cookie-cutter approach. An enrichment program at a district in Midland, Texas, doesn’t look like a program in Arcadia, California, or Hamden, Connecticut. Every community is different.
When I used to visit our district partners with our program managers and area managers in Texas, one of my favorite parts of my job was meeting in person with district leaders to see how their enrichment programs came to fruition. What was most rewarding was seeing the positive outcomes for students — including students with special needs — because of the quality of our curriculum and staff.
Learning is so much fun that kids don’t want to leave.
With a high-quality before and after school enrichment program, districts can infuse extra time for learning into the day — but in a way that doesn’t feel like school.
Studies show that students perform better when they love what they’re learning. With Right At School’s Disguised Learning curriculum, kids enjoy a variety of fun, engaging activities every day — exploring math and science, reading and writing, nature and outdoor learning, creative and performing arts, and community service. They often say that they like these activities so much that they don’t want to leave at the end of the day.
A sense of community.
Creating a sense of belonging is a big part of our curriculum — and that has become even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A part of Right At School’s enrichment program that I particularly like is that we start each morning and afternoon with a Town Hall. This provides an opportunity for students to gather as a community to celebrate birthdays and accomplishments, reinforce character traits, reflect on the prior day’s learning, and set expectations and rev up excitement for the day’s activities.
We also have a Junior Educator Program in which fourth and fifth grade students are mentored by Right At School staff and provided an opportunity to become peer leaders. Junior Educators learn to plan and organize program activities for younger peers, spearhead service learning projects, and lead peers in team-building and self-esteem boosting activities.
It’s so rewarding to see students participate in a community that champions diversity, equity, and inclusion, and where everyone feels safe and feels like they belong.
Peace of mind for parents.
Unfortunately, too many kids don’t have that experience afterschool. More than 850,000 elementary schoolers are on their own during after school hours, according to the 2020 America After 3PM report.
When students don’t have a safe place to go, parents worry. I’ve seen studies showing that parents can’t focus well at work when they don’t know if their child is safe after school. But we don’t need a study to tell us that. Everyone wants their child to be safe, cared for, and loved. Being able to provide that peace of mind for parents is one of the things that’s so fulfilling about the work we do.
Eliminating administrative headaches.
We enjoy bringing that peace of mind to districts, too. With all the challenges that district leaders are facing — from arguments about mask mandates and vaccination requirements to debates about critical race theory — the last thing they need is another program to worry about. That’s why Right At School provides a turnkey solution — and at no cost to a district. We handle all of the program implementation and administration, taking the headache off administrators before and after school. We provide the structure, curriculum, and highly-trained staff — and the support district leaders need right now.
When we work with a district, we don’t want to be seen as a vendor. We want to be a trusted partner. We want superintendents to share their challenges and successes so we can determine how to best support them. We are constantly evolving and looking for new ways to help students and families, just like district leaders are.
That’s why so many superintendents take us along when they move to a new district and why they introduce us to their colleagues in neighboring districts. In fact, most of our new business comes from introductions from superintendents who have partnered with us, and I think that speaks volumes.
At Right At School, our mission isn’t just something we say. It’s at the center of who we are and what we do.
Our mission at Right At School is to inspire a love of learning, support schools, and give parents peace of mind.
It’s what we live and breathe every day. I had never experienced that in the workplace before I joined Right At School.
Making an impact
Over the last six years, I’ve seen many successes in the districts we’ve partnered with. I know we’re helping when district and school leaders tell us that their students are performing better in class and that they’ve grown socially and emotionally as a result of participating in our programs. Twenty years from now, when these students are asked about the educators that had the most impact on them, I hope they think about Right At School.
Latoya Thomas is the Director of School Partnerships for Right At School.
If you are a school or district leader who would like to do a quick meet and greet — virtually or in-person — with our director of school partnerships, please let us know a time that’s convenient for you and we’ll take care of the rest. Contact us at https://www.rightatschool.com/partner-with-us/how-to-get-started/.