“SUNDAY SUPPER” WITH THE AFTER-SCHOOL ALL-STARS Leah Martinez Columbus, Ohio Southmoor Middle School

was the perfect setting for the Sunday Supper hosted by After-School All-Stars on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Columbus teachers, students, and community activists gathered in the auditorium to explore the day’s topic: education. Southmoor Middle School is a building bursting at the seams. With over 400 students currently enrolled, space is limited. While we listened to the speakers talk about the importance of staying in school, we gazed upon the auditorium stage which has been converted into an English classroom –complete with desks, posters, and a globe. The school is currently on academic watch but with Principal Colon Lewis at the helm and After-School All-Stars programs up and running, the school is beginning to turn things around. Keynote speaker, former State Senator Fred Strahorn, urged the students in the crowd to take education seriously. Lamar Graham with HandsOn Central Ohio stressed the importance of attending class. Their message is extremely relevant for Southmoor Middle School students as only 53.4% of AfricanAmerican students will graduate from high school. The Sunday Supper event honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and when the speakers’ segment concluded, the audience turned its attention to a brief video about school desegregation in the 1950’s, MLK Jr.’s vision for America, and current educational challenges. After the video, the audience members gathered for dinner and were asked to share their thoughts about how to improve education. The students wrote their ideas on pieces of paper which would later be added to art piece painted by Duarte Brown. When I looked around at the Southmoor Middle School building and started listing all the things it needs – funding, teachers, computers, maintenance, more space – I had trouble answering the question “How can we improve education?” Then I recalled the words of an articulate and confident 7th grader, Alma Zahar. When she was asked what was needed to improve education, she answered “More programs like After-School All-Stars all over the US.” After-School All-Stars is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, quality comprehensive after-school programs that keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life. The program was implemented at Southmoor Middle School in 2011 and offers free homework assistance, fitness activities, and learning enrichment opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, After-School All-Stars

provides supervision for students immediately after school when many would be home alone or out on the streets. ASAS is a national organization with programs all over the United States, from Los Angeles, California to Columbus, Ohio. Since launching After-School All-Stars last year, Southmoor has shown definite improvement. In fact, Southmoor is the most improved school in its district, this year versus last. To ensure Southmoor’s continued success and improvement, the school needs After-School All-Stars. I agree with Alma Zahar and I encourage readers to visit their web site www.asascolumbus.org to learn more or to make a donation.

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