To some students, school can be quite the challenge, but imagine a program that makes school feel a little less academic and a little more like home. The ARCH Program in Kentwood Public Schools does just that.
ARCH stands for academics, recreation, community and health. It runs in 14 different Kentwood schools and allows students to focus on excelling in the classroom and connects learning to their everyday lives.
“We’ve talked about things that kids normally don’t get to talk about [in school],” Site Coordinator Brittany Bayne said. “Like gay marriage and huge things that are out in the society.”
“[You have to get parents] to believe in the program and you gotta get the kids to believe in the program,” Bayne explains.
Kids are also served lunch, snacks, and provided free transportation home if needed.
In order for students to reap the benefits of ARCH, Bayne said it relies upon several factors-one of which is creating a strong relationship between students and their leaders.
“You’re their teacher and they need to know that you’re there to be a support system,” Bayne said.
At an age where kids just want to fit in, one would think there would be little interest in hanging out at an after school program, but Bayne says otherwise, she explains that students often know they need the extra help and are willing to take it.
“Fair isn’t giving everybody the same thing, fair is giving kids what they need,” Bayne said.
Students at Crestwood Middle School say the program is helping them grow academically, socially and helping them reach goals they didn’t think were possible. Avionna McGehee, a student at Crestwood Middle School, said in sixth grade she struggled often, but as a seventh grader she’s now on the honor roll.
Even Bayne said she’s noticed students stepping up their game, “I just got the summer school list of kids that are failing and are going to be invited to summer school,” Bayne said. “And we only have 6 or 7 kids from ARCH are on there.”
Between the educational learning and personal growth, there is one more important piece of advice. “[The program] is all about getting [kids] comfortable and [them] knowing that they belong,” Bayne said.