A South Carolina nonprofit that teaches at-risk kids how to socialize and control emotions has expanded into Charlotte, launching an after-school program at Bruns Elementary with plans to expand.
WINGS for Kids uses games and activities to help elementary-school kids who may have behavior issues or a rough family situation at home learn how to identify their feelings and control them.
“We say that they go to school to get their head smarts, and they go to WINGS to get their heart smarts,” CEO Bridget Laird said.
The program was founded in Charleston 18 years ago. It later expanded into Lake City, S.C., and Atlanta. The move into Charlotte was aided by a $3.6 million grant from the federal government’s Social Innovation Fund. WINGS hopes to expand to four schools in Charlotte over the next few years.
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The 30-point curriculum is the same across all the locations. At Bruns, the 100 children in the program spend three hours after school each day with the WINGS program. The students are divided into teams of 10, called nests. Each is led by a college student working through the AmeriCorps program.
The session begins with an early dinner before breaking up into activities. Each week has a different theme, likesuch as limiting distractions. An activity could include having students line up on a basketball free-throw line and try to sink a shot while their classmates scream and yell.
On Thursday, the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, students helped clean up their campus and named an emotion people might have felt on that day in 2001.
Other lessons include taking responsibility for your own actions and expanding emotional vocabulary beyond happy, sad and mad.
“When I’m talking with my friends, I listen to you, and you listen to me,” fourth-grader RodvaJah Davis said when asked what she’s learned.
WINGS leaders say it takes two years in the program to get the full effect. But Jazzi Goode, program director for WINGS at Bruns, said some teachers have already told her they’re seeing a change two weeks in.
“That’s a driving force behind keeping on doing what we’re doing,” she said.