Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Story of Mission Hill After School Program

About Mission Hill After School Program:

Mission Hill After School Program (MHASP) is a student led and operated program that exists under the Phillips Brooks House Association umbrella organization at Harvard University. The program was founded in 1983 and provides after school academic support as well as childcare to elementary, middle school and high school aged children who live in the Mission Hill community in Boston. The program runs Mondays through Thursdays during the school year. MHASP provides both homework help as well as engaging curricula activities that promote student’s social and emotional development. The program consists of students from Harvard, Wellesley, Northeastern and other neighboring universities who then take on the role of either counselor, coordinator or director.

Program Structure: 

Children: The children are divided into color groups corresponding to their age and year in school: Red (5-6), Green (7-8), Orange (9-10), Blue (11-12) and Teen (13+) Group. Each group has its own classroom in the Mission Main building. At the end of each year, the children may move up in color group depending on their age and how much time they have spent in one group. 

Counselors: Each group has college student counselors that work either one-on-one or in small groups with the children (depending on numbers and availability). A counselor can attend the program as many days a week as he/she would like, although the typical commitment is one day per week. Counselors are in charge of providing direct homework help, some behavior management, and walking their assigned kids to and from program. At the end of program, counselors ideally fill out a short google form with a reflection of how the student's day went.

Coordinators: Each color group also has four coordinators. These coordinators equate to the teachers of the classroom – they oversee the general class environment, help with behavior management when necessary, maintain family relations, and plan weekly curricula and activities. Coordinators attend two days of program per week so that each day a color group will have two coordinators. Coordinators meet within the color group once per week as well as meet with the greater program staff. Coordinators communicate important information weekly to counselors. Each evening, they also compile the counselor responses and send out an overall day summary to the color group and directors. 

Directors: Lastly, there are five directors – one per color group – who are in charge of overall organization administration work as well as larger program issues. Each director attends program three days per week and there are always at least four directors present on any given day. Each director is in charge of a particular administrative aspect of program, and provide support to coordinators.  
Below is a timeline that depicts a typical day of Mission Hill After School Program through the lens of a Coordinator. It highlights some of the coordinator's responsibilities on any given day of program.


More about Coordinators:

Coordinators of MHASP exist in a unique position of working closely with both the children and the counselors. As a result, they must navigate two different types of relationships and dynamics. They are leaders to both groups, and are faced with the challenge of conducting the classroom in such a way that promotes the goals of program. MHASP interestingly balances daily goals for students with larger longer-term aspirations.

At its most fundamental level, Mission Hill After School Program provides a safe space for after school childcare. On a daily basis, the hope is that students finish their homework, perhaps get some reading completed, and overall have a good and easy day. Meanwhile the broader goals are for the students to improve in school and develop social and emotional skills as well as role models among the staff. 
Indeed, Coordinators hold a lot of responsibility and must balance multiple roles in the program. Given the importance and difficulty of this role, it is important to consider what are strong leadership styles and practices for Coordinators that allows for both the children and the student counselors to be positively impacted by the program?

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