Adrienne Scherenzel-Curry

Chief Program Officer, After School Matters

Chicago, IL

I think this movement is so necessary right now and one that we really want to support... there are a lot of benefits for us being part of this network because we're able to provide opportunities and stop some of the downward trajectory that a lot of Black males find themselves in.

Before I worked at After School Matters, I worked with Chicago Public Schools in the department of early college and career education, which is where I got to learn a lot about high school youth and really speaking to the options and opportunities that they have. Prior to that I worked for the School District of Philadelphia.

What I really loved about the mission of After School Matters was that, for myself, I found the work that I did after school while in high school really affected where I landed later on. It’s one of these areas where you really can’t underestimate how the programming and relationships you have after school can change your life. For so many, it's a time when they really come into their own and get to have a positive relationship with adults, which they may or may not have the opportunity to do in the actual school setting.

The mission of After School Matters is to provide Chicago Public High School teens with opportunities to explore and develop their talents while gaining critical skills for work, college, and beyond. One of the things that we always say at After School Matters is that we're not school, so what happens here is a different structure and feel from what school is. This is really an area where we want youth to dig into any talents they might have, explore different areas they might like, and be exposed to different things that they may not have an opportunity to in their regular school day.

We do that by providing thousands of opportunities throughout the year; this year we'll provide around 24,500 opportunities for youth to participate in after school programming throughout the city. We offer programs in every kind of genre you could think of, and really try to think of programs that the youth want to engage in. If they want to do skateboarding, we have programs around skateboarding. We also have a lot of dance and cooking programs. All kinds of things that teens can get involved in to either explore what they're already passionate about, or something where they can bring out a passion that they haven't explored themselves yet. 

It's inspiring to be part of a movement. I think this movement is so necessary right now and one that we really want to support because we see that where we fit in at the high school stage, there are a lot of benefits for us being part of this network because we're able to provide opportunities and stop some of the downward trajectory that a lot of Black males find themselves in. This is an issue that people are struggling with throughout the country and I think in Chicago it absolutely is no different here. Some of our partner organizations are also part of this network, so I think it can also help us come up with strategies to make sure that we can support this movement and be a part of a larger push to really change the trajectory for Black males in the United States.

What we want, and what everybody wants, is to see that Black males are achieving just like their peers regardless of their gender or race. What I want for my own daughter is what I want for Black males as well. It's the exact same thing. When we really think about different groups getting ahead, it doesn't help unless you reach back and try to make sure everybody is moving forward and really moving ahead. With Black male achievement there's a lot of work that still needs to be done, and we think of ourselves as being part of the solution.

Learn more about After School Matters at www.afterschoolmatters.org, follow them on Twitter @AftrSchoolMttrs, and "Like" them on Facebook at facebook.com/AfterSchoolMatters.