Community Partnerships at Bayard Taylor School

Posted on April 5, 2018
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Categories: Family News & Resources

Bayard Taylor School, a K-5 elementary school located in Hunting Park, has two new community partners that are excited to be working with its students. These new partners are the Springboard Collaborative Afterschool Program and Girls Inc. Both partners started at Taylor less than a year ago, and even though both community partners focus on literacy, each has a unique way of supporting students and helping them reach their potential.

The Springboard Collaborative Afterschool Program was founded in 2012 but is relatively new to Taylor.  The Springboard Collaborative Afterschool Program seeks to improve literacy education in America by reinforcing collaboration between teachers and families. Programs focus on giving students more instruction time and developing literacy outside of a traditional classroom setting. Springboard operated its summer program at Taylor in 2017, opening the program to teachers and students from different schools alongside students from Taylor. After a successful summer program, Springboard chose Taylor to be one of its year-long afterschool sites.

Springboard’s afterschool program lasts 10 weeks. Students meet for an hour on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and every other week, there are family engagement sessions that students attend with a family member. At these biweekly sessions, teachers provide guidance to students and families on how to work together to improve the student’s literacy. Taylor is located in a predominantly Spanish-speaking community, so the school works hard to make sure engagement sessions are as inclusive as possible.

Taylor’s AmeriCorps VISTA Community Partnerships Coordinator, Ryan Fajardo, has been thoroughly involved with the afterschool program.  He also serves at the Site Leader of Springboard at Taylor. Rylan provides logistical and organizational support by inputting data into the computer system, calling families, monitoring classes, and doing anything he can to help out. He applauds Springboard’s dedication to linking education and family engagement.

“The family engagement component really appealed to me,” Mr. Fajardo notes. “Springboard sees family members as equal partners in the education of young students. Families provide essential information and perspectives on their children and teachers, and families should work in close coordination to make sure that a student is working not only in school, but outside of school.”

What does a typical day in the Springboard afterschool program look like? After dismissal at 3:09pm, Mr. Fajardo meets the thirty students enrolled in the program in the cafeteria.   The students are given a small snack and then Mr. Fajardo takes the students to the classroom, where teachers Amanda Sakow and Heather Martin are waiting to provide instruction until 4:30pm.  During the instruction period, students receive a class lesson and then break into groups based on their reading levels. They rotate to different literacy stations, and the teachers focus on delivering guided reading lessons to small groups of 2-3 students, which allows for individual attention.

The hardworking team at Taylor—Ms. Godshalk (Literacy Coach), Ms. Sakow and Ms. Martin (classroom teachers), Evelyn Alicea and Carmen Burgos (translation team), Mr. Fajardo (AmeriCorps VISTA Community Partnerships Coordinator), Alexander Stone, (East Coast Springboard Collaborative Director), and Sharifa Kelly, (Program Manager)—are happy to have Springboard Collaborative Afterschool Program as one of the school’s new community partners, and they look forward to continuing to work with Springboard in the future.


Girls Inc. is another one of Taylor’s new community partners.  The organization was established in 1861 and was redesigned as Girls Inc. in 2003. Girls Inc. is a national organization with 84 affiliates across the nation.  The chapter that serves the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas employs 10 paid staff, only 7 of which are full-time, and 45 to 60 interns each year.

This small team serves 2,200 girls ages 6 to 18 years old in the Philadelphia and South Jersey regions with hopes of expanding its reach to 2,400 girls this year.  Girls Inc. provides a variety of literary centered initiatives for girls from elementary school all the way up to high school. The organization has 8 major programs, which include the early literacy initiative, which is the program they run at Taylor, STEM Gems, the Summer Camp Counselor Program, and the Discover Program and Rising Stars, which are both aimed at middle school aged girls. Girls Inc. likes to “grow with the girls,” according to Natasha Andrews, the Director of Programs and Community Engagement.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and we’re part of that village,” Ms. Andrews notes.

Ms. Andrews has been involved with Girls Inc. for 19 years.  Why does she stay?

“Results!” she says emphatically.

Ms. Andrews has seen incredible results over the past 19 years.  With prolonged exposure to Girls Inc. programs, children want to read.  Girls Inc. provides opportunities that some kids would never have gotten otherwise.

At Taylor, Ms. Andrews works closely with Cherice Arrington, who is the Education and Outreach Coordinator, and Talia, one of the Youth Family and Community Engagement Specialists.  Ms. Arrington took the lead on incorporating science and mathematics into an organization that was primarily focused on literacy. She supports STEM Gems, which is a science and math based program that matches ambassadors (high school aged girls) with younger girls under the leadership of mentors.  This program expands the reach of Girls Inc. so that it can accomodate girls with more diverse interests.

Ms. Talia started out as a college intern working towards building more outreach in the Latino community.  She stayed on after college, as many Girls Inc. interns do, as a volunteer and later was brought on as a Family and Community Engagement Specialist.  She spends time communicating with families and running monthly family engagement sessions at different schools that Girls Inc. supports.

Girls Inc. started at Taylor School about a year ago.  The early literacy program is geared towards grades K-3 and is not limited to only girls.  Taylor was selected to receive services from Girls Inc. from one of their partners, the United Way.  The United Way analyzes which areas of a school need more support, taking into consideration demographics, academics, climate, and more.

A year ago, the Girls Inc. program started out providing 12 hours of one-on-one support a week, but it has since expanded to providing 16-18 hours per week of support to about 40 students, both girls and boys, at Taylor. The staff of Girls Inc. love working with Taylor because the school welcomes any kind of support its community partners can provide for its students.  The principal is open to any ideas that Ms. Andrews and the rest of her team think would be a good fit for the school.

Ms. Andrews says that Ryan Fajardo, Taylor’s AmeriCorps VISTA Community Partnerships Coordinator, goes above and beyond as a liaison, and that just makes it all the more easy for Girls Inc. to support the school.

Girls Inc. also hosts a monthly family engagement session as part of its early literacy program.  These sessions encourage the whole family to get involved with their child’s education. Monthly family engagement sessions start around 3:15pm, after dismissal.

There is then a large group welcome, where mentors explain the different activities they have available during that month’s session.  Activities usually include 15-20 minutes one-on-one reading support, physical activities related to literacy, DIY games that are easy to replicate at home, as well as a full meal and incentives for attendance.

During the family engagement session in February, students read aloud with their family member and were able to take several books home with them. Spanish-to-English books were offered to ESL students.  Ms. Talia conducted a DIY activity that used household products to create a game that family members could play with their children at home. Students beamed as they brought their parents or family members to school with them to participate in these activities.

The monthly family engagement sessions oftentimes have a great turnout, and this says a lot about the families and students at Taylor: they value family engagement, and they appreciate the opportunities the school and Girls Inc. have given them to expand their literacy skills and spend more time together as a family.