During the 1990s, St.Stephen’s Episcopal Church located in the Borough of Wilkinsburg created an after school program for elementary school children in its borough and the surrounding communities. In 2005, the St.Stephen’s Episcopal Church turned its after school program into an independent 501(c)(3) community-based creative arts program, known as Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program (NYOP). NYOP’s aspiration is to design sustainable STEAM programming that fosters cognitive growth through rigorous pedagogy, and problem and project based learning activities.
NYOP’s goal is to integrate the creative performing arts program within the framework of core educational subjects which include math, reading, science, and technology interventions. Components such as robotics, engineering, programming, and coding will be added to the program. NYOP’s aspiration is to design sustainable STEAM programming that fosters cognitive growth through rigorous pedagogy, problem and project based learning activities, and student based inquiry.
In conjunction with NYOP’s educational component, its psychosocial support component also plays a very important role in the lives of its students. This is particularly evident in the areas of mentorship and culturally relevant education, which are paramount to the students and their families. Traditional and nontraditional mentoring, life skill building, and peer to peer relationships are core facets of the NYOP psychosocial support component. Additionally, culturally relevant education is used to convey messages about the students’ ethnic background as it relates to education and cultural perspectives nationally and globally.
Therefore, through NYOP’s psychosocial support component, its students are exhibiting a greater degree of self confidence and appreciation about who they are and the achievements they are now accomplishing in school. This is very evident in the increasing number of NYOP students, who are now getting higher grades in schools. In fact, these same students are also providing academic guidance to their fellow peers who are not ashamed to ask for their academic assistance and receive their encouragement.
One of NYOP’s educational goals is to individualize educational experiences that interest and ignite its students through creativity. NYOP provides educational experiences that are developed through the foundational educational learning theories such as: 1.) zone of proximal development (i.e., what an individual can do with assistance) and 2.) multiple intelligences (i.e., gifting’s represented within nine categories of intelligences). NYOP also provides an educational environment, which encourages and supports its students in developing logic-based skills required for 21st century learners, while effectively providing support for their psychosocial needs. NYOP’s aim is to ensure that the students, their families, and their communities it represents does not fall victim to the digital divide.