Aftercare — the word is fairly self-explanatory — takes place after school. It’s something that allows parents, relatives and siblings over age 16 to pick children up after normal school hours, while being confident that they are watched over and cared for, are able to get a head start on their homework and are able to burn off some excess energy.
Debbie Flicker and Mya Smith have been mainstays in the Wellington Elementary School aftercare program for years. And this year, the two were promoted just as the new school year began. Flicker moved from assistant site director to site director for aftercare, and Smith from the activity leader for aftercare to the assistant site director.
Flicker is by no means new to the school.
“I’ve been at Wellington Elementary for 20 years,” Flicker said, “in all different positions during the day.”
Flicker joined aftercare while she was working as a paraprofessional, where she would assist teachers in the classroom. Aftercare provided an extra two hours of work a day, and the opportunity to work with the students in a different way. In aftercare, they take part in craft projects and cooking.
Flicker’s aftercare career started a decade ago, and when the opportunity to become the assistant director came up, she knew it was the right career switch.
“I like working with the kids, seeing that they’re happy and content, that they’re actually getting something out of it, and not just being structured like the school day,” Flicker said.
The aftercare program is special, she said, because when the students come in, they get snacks, do their homework (with assistance, as needed), learn cooking and participate in outdoor sports activities.
“We keep them pretty busy,” she said.
Full time aftercare students stay from when school lets out until 6 p.m., while part time students leave at 4 p.m.
And this year, Wellington Elementary’s program is filled to capacity, with more than 250 children and a waitlist. More slots are expected to open up in the near future.
“We have a lot of kids this year,” Flicker said.
As Flicker is about a month into her new position, she’s focused on making the program something children want to take part in, where they have fun and learn. So far, she’s added special activities and snacks, and she is working on more fun and different activities.
Mother to four adult children, Flicker has also served as a foster parent. She brings plenty of ideas.
She’s also excited to have Smith move up to the assistant director position.
“I love having Mya as the assistant,” she said. “Last year, we worked together to bring different things, running different programs. It’s a good team. The two of us work well together. We feed off of each other.”
Smith, who has been with the program for five years, is enjoying the new challenges that come as assistant director, while utilizing her activity leader experience. As an activity leader, she had a dual role as counselor and planner. She would schedule the groups, help prepare the counselors for activities, and plan what the children would be doing for the week.
“I love making up cooking and arts and crafts,” Smith said. “I started as a counselor for about two and a half years. In the middle of my third year, I switched over to activity leader. And now I’m assistant director.”
While she misses her group, she’s enjoying the added challenge of more responsibility.
“I’ve always wanted to work with kids,” Smith said. “When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher. But then that changed. Now I want to be a child psychologist or therapist, to work with kids to see how they work. And I know a lot of kids have trauma. I love working with kids, trying to help them overcome certain things, whether it be math or home things, if they can talk about it.”
At only 23 years old, Smith has more than a decade of experience in childcare — ever since she started babysitting at 11 years old.
“I enjoy doing different activities with the kids,” she said. “Some of the things that they say are pretty hilarious.”
As Smith steps into the role of assistant director, she’s looking forward to making aftercare more fun for the children, and providing a better, more vibrant environment.
For more information about the aftercare program at Wellington Elementary School, call (561) 651-0630 between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.