Above: A painting by students in the 21st Century After-School Program
Mountain View Elementary School was packed with people Tuesday evening: Families gathered in the cafeteria for the September open house, employees of a local business were on hand for a school supply giveaway and Denielle Baldwin wrapped up the first day of this year’s 21st Century After-School Program.
The federally funded program involves academic support, mentoring and field trips for 75 Mountain View students in grades K-5, and Baldwin said it also works with a variety of volunteers, community and business partners. Fluor, an international engineering firm with offices in Anchorage, donated 120 backpacks filled with school supplies to kids at Tuesday’s open house. Last year, Baldwin said more than 60 guests spent time with the students in the after-school program.
“I just try to expose the kids to as much as I possibly can,” she said.
Baldwin has led the 21st Century program at Mountain View for around seven years now, and worked with the program in Anchorage for 15. She said there are 11 different sites throughout the district, and she worked at about half of them before settling on McPhee Avenue. The program prioritizes students who are struggling academically, working to learn English, homeless or special needs, Baldwin said.
The grant that funds the program at Mountain View Elementary focuses on science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM. Baldwin said she’s added one letter to her school’s acronym, calling it STEAM.
Art is important to her students.
At Tuesday’s open house, after the teacher recognitions and classroom tours, Baldwin spotted a familiar sixth-grader in the crowd in the cafeteria. She introduced KJ, a former member of the after-school program, now a student at Clark Middle School. When the 21st Century program held a First Friday art exhibition downtown last year, Baldwin said he was the star of the show.
Now, he’s been coming back to help out at his old school.
Baldwin said that’s an important part of the 21st Century program. Since she started at Mountain View Elementary, she said she’s had teen volunteers mentoring the students after school. One girl, a former student, volunteered so often she was eventually hired by the school district. Baldwin said she went on to study medicine, attending a special summer session at Georgetown University. Another former volunteer won a prestigious Coca-Cola scholarship and now studies at Yale University.
Sitting in the cafeteria Tuesday night, surrounded by the buzz of open house activity, Baldwin said those successes often don’t come until much later. But she can plant the seeds right here in elementary school.
“I’m looking for that spark in the kids,” she said.