Creeks and Community: Riverlink and Erwin Middle's After-School Program

The resource meetings at each community school are different- full of different characters and ideas. Each is unique to that school community. However, resource meetings themselves are always places where opportunities to support Community Schools can be found. Resource meetings are gatherings at the school of individuals who represent non-profits, grassroots organizations, and youth programs. The Erwin Middle School resource meeting was exactly where Leah Worley, the Education and Outreach Coordinator from Riverlink, connected with Allison the Community School Coordinator to figure out exactly what would be the best outdoors program to bring to Erwin Middle during the after-school hours.


"It was the first full school season that Erwin Middle School was partnering with after-school partners and running different programs 4-5 days a week”, said Leah. 

It was decided that a 8 week program that would take advantage of Erwin Middle school's proximity to a natural creek would be the most engaging for the students. This program was aptly named, RiverRATS (Recreation and Appreciation Through Science).  So for several weeks, Leah took the RiverRATS crew down to the creek. As the students explored the river bed and surrounding environment they connected to it, themselves, and each other. Leah taught them about water quality, macromacroinvertebrates the ecosystem around them. The program also included interactive model examples of different ecosystems. Beyond the educational component, the program was full of laughter and camaraderie, providing a platform for students to forge new friendships and test their leadership skills in a supportive environment.

The Collaborative Leadership ( a pillar of Community Schools) that Allison and Leah shared made it possible for this amazing program to flourish. The Riverlink program itself is an amazing example of the community school pillar of Expanded and Enriched Learning Time.



Leah and the RiverRATS crew took their expanded and enriched learning time to another level when Allison and Leah decided to utilize Community Nights as a place where the students could share a meal together after being outdoors. Some students took the time to socialize, others to study or decompress. And as each student was picked up, often their guardian would sit and enjoy a meal or grab some food to go. The small act of partnering with the Community Night as a place to convene an afterschool program was able to make a larger impact; not only by helping to ensure all students ate a nutritious meal but also by building relationships with families of students. An essential element to this narrative is that Riverlink is a free after-school program and they can provide after-school programming in several locations, thanks to partners like UWABC, IRL, and Open Doors. Making this educational and fun after-school program free is a tangible way you can see UWABC and partners working to close the opportunity gap in our county.


The collaborative leadership between the Community School Coordinator and Riverlink exemplifies the essence of Community Schools. Their partnership not only resulted in the successful implementation of an engaging outdoor program at Erwin Middle School but also extended to utilizing Community Nights as a platform for students to connect over shared meals. Although this after-school program or the resource meetings may seem small, this story from Erwin Middle and the Riverlink program demonstrates the tangible impact of collaborative efforts to close the opportunity gap.



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