May 9, 2012:
America's Finest Charter School
San Diego, CA
"Our mission is to create as many opportunities as possible for our students, and we believe that education has to go above and beyond in every way," said Jan Perry, co-founder and director of America's Finest Charter School in San Diego.
Having opened just last fall, America's Finest Charter School serves students from K-8 grades, and serves students of diverse backgrounds. Students spend an hour more in class than other traditional public schools, and focus heavily on math, literacy, social studies and science.
"We are located in an area that is 90% Free and Reduced Lunch, high-poverty, so we know we have a huge responsibility with our students. We are going back to the basics," added Perry.
But the school also recognizes the importance of students having a creative outlet.
That's why they offer the program "Arts in the Afternoon", which offers after-school programs in dance, ballet, piano, guitar, world music, karate, and fine arts, to name a few, with instructors and artists that work in the local community.
Students at the school have to commit to attend the classes assigned to them--either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday--every week for the whole year.
"I came to this school, because my daughter needed a better learning environment, and this school has given her, in less than a year, a lot more confidence than she had at her other school," said Camelia Díaz, one of America's Fines Charter School parents, to CCSA.
Her daughter Lourdes, a 7th grader, takes guitar lessons in the Arts in the Afternoon program, something that Camelia says couldn't have happened outside of the school. "We wouldn't have been able to afford private lessons, and an instrument, but here, Lourdes gets to take a guitar home, which was donated to the school, and she not only practices, but she plays different songs to the entire family. She really loves it!" said Díaz.
She's not the only one. Out of 175 students at the charter school, 150 participate in the Arts in the Afternoon program. The school also holds special events to showcase what the students have learned, from dance, to music, to art exhibits.
"It's a wonderful way to turn these kids into well-rounded people, who not only have the core academic knowledge, but have a creative outlet. This is something that a traditional public school may not have been able to offer, and we can do it due to our flexibility as a charter school," said Perry.
For more on the Arts in the Afternoon program, visit America's Finest Charter School's website.