Ernest, and his Ways

Ernest is getting individualized support that gives him the confidence to reach new heights.

Thinking back to grade school, most of us can recall that favorite teacher or counselor who helped shape us into who we are today. For Ernest, that person is Mr. Dennis.

The two have formed a tight bond over the years at the Out of School Time (OST) program. In a safe and nurturing environment, participants benefit from programming that promotes academic development and success into the future.

On a typical afternoon, nutritious snacks are served to help youth recharge their thinking caps before partaking in various educational activities. They are also given an hour to finish the day’s homework, for which help is near. Ernest—who struggles with math though it’s a favorite subject—received help with his times tables.

“[They] taught me how to do multiplication, like counting by fives. And it started getting easier,” Ernest said with pride.

He is also quick to boast about his crossword puzzle skills. “Two in one day—I don’t know how I did it, and I’m still doing more … to learn more words.”

During the summertime, Ernest’s parents enjoy knowing he and his siblings receive the same enrichment that they do during the school year in OST’s summer camp. No matter the season, Ernest will be trailing behind his role model.

In the classrooms where STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) activities take place, in the gymnasium where games and sports are played, or on educational field trips to places like the Academy of Natural Sciences or Linvilla Orchards, there you will find Dennis and his eight-year-old shadow, Ernest.

“We want to make sure the children get something out of all project-based learning activities—that something extra they wouldn’t get in a traditional classroom setting,” Mr. Dennis said. “It opens them up to something new … things they may not otherwise discover, which gets them engaged in learning in a different way.”

Ernest recently outgrew the seven/eight-year-old age bracket and moved onto the nine/ten group where the activities are a bit more challenging. There are new faces in the cohort, too, leaving Ernest feeling scared and uncertain. But these are growing pains he will feel year after year—into the middle school OST program, then into high school, and adulthood. It’s the same discomfort we all feel when reaching new heights.

“You can do it, right?” is a question Mr. Dennis often asks Ernest.

But he already knows that the answer is yes.