Eagles Nest – A Home Away From Home

By Mary Alys Cherry

“There’s not a lot for kids to do after school in Seabrook, so they start dreaming up things to do,” Bay Elementary Principal Erin Tite says.

Some have parents who have to work nights – starting about the time school is out. They need something to do to keep them out of trouble, and she has come up with an answer – an after hours community recreation center at the school.

It’s called Eagle’s Nest and will offer students from both Bay Elementary and Seabrook Intermediate a safe place to go after class, rather than roam the streets and possibly get into trouble, Tite told the Clear Creek Education Foundation Board at its monthly meeting. “Eagles Nest is a very appropriate name as this is the home of the Eagles and it will offer an after-school home away from home.”

With the opening of the Eagle’s Nest in Bay’s outside gym, the goal is to develop a sense of pride in the community and reduce vandalism while the school fosters good values and character and provides a connection between school and home.

Her idea has met with wide approval.

Grants Awarded

The education foundation awarded Bay Elementary a $3,400 grant to purchase computer stations so students can do research on the Internet for class assignments, while Seabrook Rotary donated $3,200 to go with a $35,000 Harris County Department of Education grant so the school can hire a full-time person to oversee the children after school and, as Tite adds, “get us a head start in achieving our goal.”

A variety of activities many children have never been exposed to are planned from 3:15 to 6:15 p.m. such as soccer, arts and crafts, karate, dance, boxing, crochet, ping pong, video games and Boy and Girl Scouts with more activities on the drawing board for the future. “We’re going to show them there’s a whole ‘nother world out there. They just have to reach out and grab it.”

When Tite started out at Bay eight years ago, the community was 11 percent disadvantaged, she said. Today it is 42 percent. “That’s a big, big change and a challenge for us.” There’s not a lot for kids to do, she pointed out. “There’s the library, we have the skate park, and then you have Kroger’s parking lot and shopping carts and children dreaming up things to do.”

On any given night you can find kids playing in Kroger’s parking lot, running the streets after dark, or finding trouble in the skate park, she said. “And, these are our kids I’m talking about – elementary students.” Many do not have access to the Internet at home. Teachers found students falling asleep in class, tardy on a regular basis and not taking their learning seriously.  They didn’t see the need to go to school or the relevance of an education. The need for a connection between school and home was greater than ever.

Yet with all the vandalism, it wasn’t happening at the school. Tite feels that is because the kids consider the school their home and you don’t tear your home up. It was when Bay teachers noticed that link, that the idea for the Eagles Nest was born.

“Students who don’t have anyone waiting for them at home or have family who encourage education, find it difficult to make connections between school and life. They are unable to understand what a good education can provide for them in the future. They live one day at a time and don’t see the relevance in what they are learning at school. “If we want to break that cycle of poverty, then we have to show students that with hard work and an education, anything is possible.”

Cycle of Poverty

There is no cost for students to enroll in the Eagle’s Nest, and 15 students have enrolled so far. “We can’t change what they have at home but we can change what they choose to do with their spare time,” she told the foundation board.

“Children have to feel like they belong. If they don’t feel like they belong, they turn to gangs. This will help them feel they belong. And, once we get the kids in, we’re going to bring parents in,” she said as her voice trailed off and she looked into the future, picturing what Eagle’s Nest could someday become.”

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