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Kids’ Club volunteers shape program direction

By Charlotte Aaron

Section: Featured, Features

September 8, 2017

Teamwork. Program Development. Leadership. While these skills are typically associated with Business, HSSP and other academic programs at Brandeis, for Waltham Group Co-President Lee Wilson ’18, they defined his experience with Prospect Hill Kids’ Club, a Waltham Group program that provides after-school tutoring and games for children living in the largest low-income housing complex in Waltham.

The coordinators for the Prospect Hill Kids Club

In the 1970’s, Wilson explained, the Prospect Hill community center, home to today’s Kids’ Club, was used frequently. However, over the course of many years, the building fell into a state of disrepair and went largely unused by the community. “They were not able to really do anything about it, and they didn’t have the funding to go and fix it up,” said Wilson.

A joint effort by the Brandeis Department of Community Service, Bentley University, the Waltham Police, as well as other donors, helped raised the funds to restore the first floor of the community center. “It’s been really successful. You walk in and you enter and there is this open area with games, a little space to work … a first-grade room, and a nice little living area with couches,” said Wilson of the center. He also noted the kitchen that is used for special after-school programming events and a specific middle-school area for homework help.

Following the restoration of the center, Brandeis and Bentley students teamed up to develop the Kids’ Club. “It’s one of the first times that we’ve worked so closely with a partnership where …we’re working equally with another university,” said Wilson. Generally, both schools bring about 10 to 15 students to volunteer after school each day, as well as coordinators representing each school to help run and shape the direction of the program.

“We’ve had some difficulties working with Bentley and the Bentley University students,” Wilson stated. With so many students from both schools involved in the leadership of the Kids’ Club program, it can be hard to reach a consensus about the general direction of the program, Wilson said. At times, Bentley has had up to 13 student-coordinators for the program in addition to Brandeis student-coordinators, meaning there were over 20 students involved in the program’s organization and daily functioning.

To help resolve issues with negotiations, when he joined the program as a first-year, the Brandeis and Bentley students agreed to assign one point-person from each school to work with the Prospect Hill program director and make decisions. “I took that responsibility on the spring semester of my sophomore year and the fall semester of last year,” said Wilson. “We have hit some roadblocks, but it’s really been very successful… all of us have really found the best way to work with the program.”

Because the program is so young, it has been the responsibility of the coordinators to bring new ideas to the table about how to improve the program and run it most efficiently. Wilson explained that because the students are “honest about the fact that the center isn’t always running as smoothly as it possibly can be,” it provides the opportunity for students to present new ideas. “Our relationship with Bentley has definitely been strengthened,” Wilson stated, highlighting the cooperation of students to make the program the best it can be.

As much as the Prospect Hill Kids’ Club has provided Wilson an opportunity to grow as a leader, he noted that it’s the small interactions with the actual kids that make the experience worth the work. “It’s hard, and you put in so much time, and everything doesn’t work out the way you planned it, but knowing that they really appreciate the work you do makes it all worth it.”

The program has been both educational and rewarding for Wilson. “I really love how much we actually help these kids and help these parents that need this help … I definitely understand the poverty that is in Waltham a lot more and understand how important the work that we do is.”

Prospect Hill Kids’ Club runs Monday through Friday from 2:45 to 5:30. To participate, contact the Club coordinators at wgprospecthillkidsclub@gmail.com.

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