When the school bell rings on a weekday afternoon, where does your child go? Do they head home to a house with a waiting guardian, to a healthy snack and homework help? Or, do they find themselves at home, alone?
For many families in East Hampton, the latter scenario was the reality. Parents were working hard to support their families, but there simply weren’t the resources to provide children with the supervision they needed in the hours between the end of the school day and the end of a shift. Instead of continuing to learn outside of the classroom, many children spent hours alone. That all changed for the better with the founding of Project MOST.
Project MOST is an affordable after-school enrichment program. One of its main programs revolves around “20 Good Reasons to Have a Garden and a Kitchen at your school.” The program is using those lost after school hours to close the achievement gap. The project serves over 400 children in East Hampton, providing them with nurturing education beyond school hours.
New York State funding, local budgets and fundraising efforts support the program. Families pay the remaining fees, though the program costs significantly less than what typical after school programs charge. Many families pay on a sliding scale. Project MOST maintains itself through dedicated and creative fundraising efforts. Events such as Eileen’s Angels, a cocktail reception and art auction, and Empty Bowls, a soup-tasting event presented by local chefs, are supported by community donations to benefit the program. This Saturday, September 10, Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor will be hosting a “Gala in the Garden,” which will benefit Project MOST. The gala will take place during Sag Harbor’s annual HarborFest celebration.
Those who are interested in supporting Project MOST can visit projectmost.com. “However somebody wants to help, giving time or funds, they should get in touch and start a conversation,” says Executive Director Rebecca Morgan Taylor. “We welcome anyone who wants to help to join us on a tour of the program.”
“Project MOST is an educational after school program with three main focuses,” says Taylor. “Health and wellness, arts and culture, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). We plan all of our enrichment programs within these three focuses.”
On a typical day, students are dismissed at the end of the school day to Project MOST. Students will enjoy a nutritious snack. “Then they’ll receive homework help, tutoring, assistance on anything they might struggle with,” says Taylor. “Later, they go through two other activities. One is a physical fitness activity. Another is art or STEM.”
The programs go beyond what students learn during the school day. A licensed nutritionist teaches kids healthy cooking techniques and organic gardening. “We recently received a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) grant from the Long Island Community Foundation,” says Taylor. “So, we are planning a program with ornithology. You would think that birding wouldn’t be that exciting for this age group, but we tried a mini version last year and the kids loved it… We’re always looking to expand our daily programing, and we let the kids tell us what they like.”
As a result of interactive lessons and positive supervision, Project MOST students maintain better school attendance and experience higher self-esteem, and are less likely to experience obesity and illness.
“I think if you talk to any of our parents you would hear wonderful things, and the kids adore the program.” Taylor says. “Any kid deserves a Project MOST at their school. It’s truly a wonderful program, and a needed program. This is something that’s affordable, that’s necessary, and every day we’re trying to make it better.”