Highland Falls students are connecting fun and hands-on learning thanks to CONNECT–a partnership between the Highland Falls Intermediate School the West Point Association of Graduates.
The CONNECT program aims to provide a positive adolescent learning environment that enhances student social, emotional, physical, and academic development. A component of the AOG’s Hudson Valley Project, CONNECT contributes to the social, economic, and educational wellbeing of West Point’s neighboring communities.
CONNECT began in February with a pilot phase offering six programs, each of which brought together cadet volunteers and community volunteers who develop leadership skills while offering mentorship to local youth. The first afterschool program taught students the importance of fitness, health, and nutrition. Other offerings have included an introduction to drones, a coding and robotics activity, and an event focused on Portuguese music and culture. In May CONNECT students connected to the local community with a walking tour of historic Highland Falls and on June 2, CONNECT offered hands-on activities showcasing the historic and cultural nature of lacrosse, which for centuries was played in New York Native American communities and is now America’s oldest team sport.
Students are enthusiastic about CONNECT. At a Capoeira movement event in April, a student remarked that it was “fun because we got to dance and play instruments.” When asked what they liked most about the program, students mentioned “learning something new” and “spending time with people.”
“It is not difficult to see why this is so important to our children,” says CONNECT director Christine McDonald. “It’s heartwarming,” she says, “to see happy, healthy, smiling kids choosing to actively engage in learning.”
A free program for all Highland Falls Intermediate School students, in September, CONNECT will grow to a Monday through Thursday afterschool program for grades 3-6 with Fridays including 7-8 grade students in leadership and mentoring roles.