Editor’s Note: This is the first story in a three-part series about how Mansfield City Schools is addressing the needs of students beyond the classroom.
MANSFIELD — Pulling off an after-school program for more than 100 middle-school students is no small feat. Through a combination of federal funding, community partnerships and willing educators, Mansfield City Schools has kept its Tyger Clubs program going during a difficult school year.
The Tyger Clubs after-school program is available for free to any middle school student. Students spend about two hours in the program each day, participating in various club offerings. There are currently about 114 students registered and enrolled.
“I love this program,” board member Renda Cline said. “It’s going to help them not only with their academics but socially and emotionally — particularly at this time when children need that contact with not just their peers but also with adults who care about them and people who care about them and their school.”
Clubs are offered on alternate days throughout the week. Students are required to choose a minimum of two academic clubs, which include options like homework help, book club, poetry club, science club and math club. These clubs are run by teacher volunteers.
“The students really enjoy our academic clubs,” said Enisia Lee, one of the program coordinators. “It’s not that they’re sitting there just learning things off of a board. We incorporate games that most students like to play and they all participate pretty well.
Career technical instructors from Mansfield Senior High School offer options like culinary, cosmetology, robotics and Tyger Code and Drone. Some career technical instructors even in their high school students to help with the lessons.
Shyah Puckett, a high school student in the district’s cosmetology program, said serving as a student advisor helps reinforce what she learns in class. It also counts toward her volunteer hour requirements for SkillsUSA.
“A while back we did hair braiding and after that class, I had several students walk up to me and tell me that that was one of the most enjoyable things that they got to do that day,” Puckett said. “It also helps us connect with the community more, and we really enjoy it.
The cosmetology club is led by Kim Mincieli, a veteran teacher with more than 20 years experience in the district.
“Working with students in seventh and eighth grade strengthens her program by introducing students earlier to the careers in the field of cosmetology,” said Holly Christie, director of student support programs. “She has built relationships with students, that is evident from the minute you walk into her club.
“There’s always a waiting list to be part of the cosmetology club.”
Other clubs focus on a wide range of interests like STEAM (an integration of STEM and art), yoga, entrepreneurship and cultivating a growth mindset. During Girl Talk, girls learn about leadership and self-empowerment from Crossroads City Center volunteers.
Tyger Camps are funded through the district’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The federally-funded, state-administered program is designed to provide opportunities for children with high-quality learning opportunities for students in rural and inner city public schools.
As part of the grant, the district is required to partner with organizations in the community. Mansfield City School’s primary partner is the North End Community Improvement Collaborative.
“Our strategic plan is all about investing into Mansfield City Schools, in particular the middle school and the high school,” said Nyasha Oden, social services coordinator for NECIC. “Since the beginning we’ve done things geared towards 21st century careers, so it only made sense to continue that in collaboration with the grant that they have.”
NECIC hosts the Summer Manufacturing Institute for one week each summer and supports the after-school program through initiatives like “community connected.”
When schools went remote due to COVID-19, NECIC started arranging for speakers from the area to give virtual presentations on community resources, financial literacy and mental health.
“We’ve had Dr. Nancy Mathieu come in to speak about some stress management for students and also the library, just community things that are happening that our students may not know about,” Christie said.
The district also partners with the Mansfield Art Center, which runs the STEAM Club and the Mansfield Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program.
UMADAOP provides a morning mentor, who joins about 20 students for breakfast each morning. The initiative offers students a positive start to the day with an adult role model who cares about them.
“The work they’re doing with the kids during their breakfast time, I really love that,” Oden said. “They need positive role models, they need people that not only talk to them but are going to listen to them and advocate for them and show them other avenues of life that they wouldn’t otherwise get.”
The program also has regular family nights as required by the grant.
“I love that they do that because that helps keep family informed and get them engaged in what the children are learning and creating those connections within the home,” Oden said.
Programs funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant are required to have an external evaluator. Dr. Howard Walters of Ashland University works with the district to observe the program, make suggestions for improvement and evaluate data to measure the program’s effectiveness.
Walters said that it’s the combination of fun activities, positive adult role models and extra learning support that makes the Tyger Clubs initiative effective. His data has shown that students who participate in the program benefit both academically and socially.
“We have seen objective evidence in students self esteem and a reduction of negative behavior in the school setting,” he said.