How Are the Children?

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella with students who participated in Joe’s Day of Service. Photo from CSD

The late, honorable Dr. Joe Rella who was the superintendent at the Comsewogue school district on Long Island would start his many speaking events by saying “Kasserian ingera” and then translating it to say, “How are the children?”  He would go on to explain this was the traditional greeting that passed between the most fearsome Maasai warriors in Africa. The traditional answer would be, “all the children are well” which meant to them that the daily struggles of existence do not preclude proper caring for their young. This is still the traditional greeting among the Maasai, acknowledging the high value that the Maasai always places on their children’s well-being.

So, if I ask our readers, “How are the children?” the ones that can reply “all the children are well” are saying so because they have figured out a way to successfully support the social and emotional well-being of the children.  Keeping every single student engaged in school, even pre-COVID, is no small feat. With the daily uncertainty of school closures, quarantining and how students are receiving instruction, the well-being of students, educators, support staff, and community members are under constant pressure.

According to this study by the CDC, Youth Connectedness Is an Important Protective Factor for Health and Well-being. Extracurriculars such as afterschool programs, sports, arts, clubs, and community service have a direct and positive impact on student achievement. Schools see stronger attendance, fewer mental health challenges, and improved academics. This is why school communities invest significant resources into what goes on outside the classroom.

I wear several hats. I am a mom, a school board president, and a business development professional at Passport For Good. What these three hats all have in common is supporting the best educational outcomes for children. Without an intentional focus on the social and emotional well-being of each child, it is difficult if not next to impossible to see progress in a student’s education. Children having access to extracurricular activities that are motivating and inspiring will have better attendance, higher academic performance, fewer behavior challenges, and a positive mental state of mind.

The pandemic has complicated the ability to deliver these vital and engaging activities. Whether remote or in-person, educators have developed incredible ways to offer these programs to all students. However, districts are hard-pressed to determine if their schools are truly delivering the programs necessary to reap the benefits of these important extracurricular programs.  

If districts do not have the data, how can they know their programs are successful?  For all three of my hats, I know the ability to see the amount of participation in these activities in real-time is the driving force to ensure each child has equitable access to these important programs. It’s so easy to measure this vital data, why wouldn’t you want to capture your student’s activities? We should measure what we value and if we don’t measure student engagement, then we can’t improve or encourage it. 

To learn more, go to: www.passportforgood.com.

Lisa Rudley is the mother to three children, a school board president in Westchester County and a business development professional at Passport For Good. Lisa has been advocating for whole-child policies for over a decade for children across New York State.