The Power of Me: After-School Program Moves Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead

Friendly Center’s after-school program of twenty years receives a fresh start, and, with it, a new name: The Power of Me. The new program invites students to see themselves as capable, responsible, and powerful through new curriculum and exciting academic activities.

Stop by any of the Friendly Center tutoring classrooms and you’ll be surrounded by superhero décor; its intent is to create an atmosphere of familiarity and pique student interest. The walls of the tutoring rooms are even lined with a mock metropolis skyline, making students feel like they’re a bat-signal away from being beckoned to heroism. Yanira Hirschfeld, a retired teacher with over 40 years of classroom experience, designed the classroom along with the program and curriculum. Yanira is the new Friendly Center Education Program Coordinator, and she has big plans for Friendly Center’s new approach to the twenty year old program. When asked what “The Power of Me” theme means to her, Yanira noted, “The Power of Me simply means that every student will learn to have grit, a mindset, and show perseverance within themselves to make things happen in their own lives.”

The tutoring program is an important pillar of Friendly Center’s vision to end generational poverty in Orange County. The daily after-school program serves as a space for students to complete homework and engage in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) activities. Education Closet, an education resource organization, describes STEAM as “an educational approach to learning that uses [different subjects] as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.” The program also aims to educate students on career opportunities in STEAM fields. Yanira plans to implement lessons next month that center around career exploration and opportunity. She believes it’s important for students to know the job duties and functions within STEAM careers, such as physician assistant and civil engineer, as well as what it takes to be qualified and prepared for such positions.

In the classroom, volunteers, Chapman work study students, and interns come together daily to aid students in the completion of homework assignments. But these community members do more than homework help, they also serve as examples of what is possible with education. “What makes our tutors especially valuable to the program is their academic diversity,” says Taylor Nicholson, Friendly Center’s volunteer coordinator, “from former teachers to mechanical engineering and screenwriting majors – we truly have so much of academia represented. It’s so valuable that our students get to see an array of educational possibilities just by getting to know the people helping them with homework.”

Yanira knows that every student has the potential to be a leader, adding that “Friendly Center’s tutoring program provides the ideas, tools, and resources students need to become more innovative and create their own destiny though STEAM centered instruction. In turn, these students will be able to face their academic and professional careers with confidence.”