At Green Dot Public Schools California, our Expanded Learning program, provides innovative services to keep students engaged outside school hours — at no cost to our families. This initiative is a grant-funded program that allows for the extension of learning outside of classes in the morning, during lunch, after school, and even during school breaks. Programs are not limited to after-school but take place anytime.
Green Dot Public Schools California’s Expanded Learning initiative falls under the California Departments of Education’s state-wide Expanded Learning Opportunities Program to expand after-school programs under three major components: academic support, education enrichment, and physical fitness/nutrition.
At GDPSCA, we’ve centered our beyond-the-class support around strengthening community and cultivating joy.
Think. Play. Serve
Our expanded learning cultivates students’ success and school community through its slogan: “Think. Play. Serve.” ‘
This past school year, David Nunez, the director of Expanded Learning at Green Dot California, doubled-down on this slogan by unveiling ¡Mas Ánimo!,, a year-long campaign this past year, which was designed to strengthen the connections between our 18 schools in Los Angeles through network-wide clubs and events.
“This year, we’ve centered around bringing joy and connectivity to all campuses through org-wide activities and events,” Nunez said.“The key aim is to expose students to things that they aren’t normally exposed to, or that their more affluent peers are exposed to regularly.”
Providing students with the resources they need to succeed has long been an imperative in Green Dot’s values. We have partnered with multiple community partners like Educare Foundation, Woodcraft Rangers, and Arc to facilitate programming. “Every program will look different on campus because we have three different providers. Each brings their own particular skill set and kind of area of expertise. We let our partners do what they do best,” Nunez added. .
Expanded Learning brings students together and fosters relationships that build resilience in the face of adversity and increase engagement and meaningful learning across schools. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students’ sense of connectedness in the past few years as they navigated their academic and social lives through screens rather than in person. In response to social distancing, the Expanded Learning program implemented a virtual initiative, creating over 60 interactive clubs, interactive activities, tutorials, and live sessions created by after-school program staff.
Many events have happened at Green Dot schools and have become cornerstone clubs like the Afterschool Leadership Council, Leaders Looking Out, Rainbow Initiative, and the Bilinguals Forging Fellowship. “We try to inject school spirit,” said Nunez, “It really shines when we bring all the schools together for org-wide events.”
These events bring together multiple schools. Some have even had over 300 attendees, like the Ánimo Cup, an intramural soccer tournament for teams of Green Dot middle school and high school students. Events part of the ¡Mas Ánimo! campaign include Pride Prom, an initiative with the Gender-Sexuality Alliance clubs across Green Dot schools to bring inclusivity and celebrate pride; The Knowledge Bowl, where students were tested and challenged with a Jeopardy-Esque trial of events; and Expanded Learning’s Spelling Bee, are both initiatives to support academic development.
“These events are more than just about competition. They tie in with what Green Dot is all about. What is it that we do? What is important to us? Parents asking, ‘what’s a good Green Dot High School to send my student to?’, ” Nunez said.“All our programs are available to all students, and they have a voice, and what they see, right, it’s not just like our partners or us dictating this is what’s going to happen on our campus,” he added.
Thanks to the overwhelming response of Green Dot’s community, the Expanded Learning program has reached an audience beyond the students. “As leaders, it’s not just about affecting the campus, but the community as well,” said Edison Palacios, Expanded Learning Programs Associate. Mas Animo’s open events are opportunities to build ties around what’s best for our students. At the end of the day, this involvement establishes a closer relationship between students and their Green Dot community to build the necessary guidance to prepare them for their futures. Involvement is not just one-sided but reciprocated by teachers, school administrators, and even Green Dot office administrators. As Nunez said, “we try to provide events and activities for all stakeholders, not just our students, staff, and family.”
At Green Dot Public Schools CA, we believe in supporting the whole student with programs like Expanded Learning. We do this to ensure our students are well-rounded and supported from all angles, as we prepare them for college, leadership, and life.