Photos by Rome City Schools

Rome City School’s faculty and staff continuously work to give their students numerous opportunities to excel in their studies, as well as in their personal lives.

The faculty at Elm Street is no exception, as a handful of teachers commit their time after school to continue serving the children they love to teach. They do this through the ASPIRE program.

ASPIRE, or Active Student Participation Inspires Real Engagement, is an afterschool program with activities designed to keep students busy while also giving them an extra hand with their studies.

By participating in ASPIRE, students develop skills that allow them to have meaningful participation in the process of learning.

Third, fourth and fifth grade students from Elm Street participate in this afterschool program Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. Here, students receive an extended teaching period of reading, math and writing, spending one day a week focusing on art, dance (Step) and fitness/swimming at the YMCA.

Starting with a snack and a 15-minute period dedicated to homework, the children are then split up into four small groups. During the program, students rotate between each groups every 30 minutes.

“We call it ASPIRE, but essentially it is an extended school day,” said Penny Atkinson, Physical Education teacher at Elm Street and Coordinator for ASPIRE.

Elm Street is one of four Rome City Schools to host ASPIRE as an afterschool program. Based off of enrollment, Elm Street is able to select 44 students to participate in the Aspire program, a privilege that many students look forward to all day.

“There is a selection process for ASPIRE,” explained Atkinson. “We try and select students who we know are willing to work hard, and some who may be struggling with some of their subjects but are willing to work and improve on the things they struggle with.”

During the student’s reading rotation, they participate in a program called Lexia. Lexia is a personalized learning model where students practice their reading skills through their own learning paths.

Elm Street uses other models like Lexia during ASPIRE, giving students a more personalized learning experience during the afterschool program. They also dedicate days to learn soft skills, play board games like checkers, Monopoly, etc. and more.

“We did other projects last year like woodworking, etc. This year, we are trying to teach the kids about being good citizens and taking care of our school,” said Atkinson. “At five each day, we gather in the lobby and clean up the school grounds. They are learning to notice, first of all, the trash and then to pick up, and that the world looks a lot better when they pick up.

“ASPIRE allows our students to build relationships with their teachers—we get to know the kids more and they get to know us better,” smiled Atkinson. “It’s just amazing. I see some of the sweetest, quietest children become leaders, and that is what makes this all worth it.”

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