It’s a New Dai for Extended Care at TNCS!

The New Century School is well known for its convenient before- and aftercare programs as well as its robust extracurricular programming. In October, TNCS welcomed Dehojeni “Dai” Cousins as Aftercare Director to oversee and expand on these popular offerings.

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Ms. Cousins came to Baltimore 3 years ago but is originally from San Diego, California.  She first came to the East Coast to attend college in Atlanta, where she earned a B.A. in Mathematics, although she originally majored in Biology with the intent to become a medical examiner. She soon realized that math was her passion, and, upon graduating, arrived in Baltimore to teach math at Vivian T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy, a medical high school where students get certified to work in the nursing, pharmaceutical, or EMT fields.

While she was teaching, Ms. Cousins earned two master’s degrees, one in Special Education and another in Secondary Education, all by the time she was 23 years old. She explains why she decided to apply for the TNCS Aftercare Director position, despite having so much education experience: “Teaching was a big time commitment—I didn’t have time for anything else. So I thought I needed something different, but I knew I still wanted to work with children.”

Despite being so accustomed to working with high school–age children, she adjusted to the younger age groups at TNCS immediately. “Younger kids want you to help them, and they want you to talk to them, so it’s easier to try to get them to do something. They’re easier to engage, and they’re just so loving. High school students tend to have more ‘attitude’ and don’t always want outside input,” she said.

Although she came into a program that was already pretty well established, she knows what direction she’d like to take it in from here. Her main focus in the fall was to ensure that students enrolled in before and after care had plenty of opportunities to be creative and active and to basically enjoy being where they are. (Psst—she loves Pinterest!) “I want them to make stuff so they can take home something different. I definitely want to incorporate more activities and a little bit more structure with the students. Some students haven’t learned certain social skills, so I want to help them develop those behaviors,” she said.

As far as extracurricular activities, she says, “I’m still figuring that out. There are already a lot of choices now, so I just need to fill in some gaps. I also want to incorporate more extracurriculars for primary students.”

All in all, for being in a new environment both geographically and professionally, Ms. Cousins is adapting beautifully. San Diego and Baltimore are quite different, for example.  “At first it was an adjustment. The weather, the buildings, just everything about it was an adjustment, especially because San Diego is more of a calmer place, and it’s always sunny. It’s a little colder here,” she said. Back in San Diego, she frequented the beach, helped her younger sister with schoolwork—especially math—and did a lot of volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club. Here, she is developing friendships, loves to cook with her boyfriend, and plans to explore East Coast beaches to see how they measure up. Although all of her family is in California, she goes back at least once a year to visit them, and her mother loves to travel and comes here often. Her work, she says, is going very well. She finds it a fun challenge to design new activities for students in Extended Care to pursue.

Ms Cousins was adamant about one thing in particular: “Even though I’m young, I’m ready for this task.” You may have noticed—the kids adore her!

Meet TNCS’s After Care Director: Aida Abebe!

The New Century School works diligently to provide students with a rigorous but well-rounded academic experience . . . and that same diligence is applied to after school programming as well.

In fact, you may have noticed a striking difference in extracurricular offerings in the last few years. In its infancy, TNCS relied on after school “clubs” designed and run by the after care staff (see, for example, Spaceship Club Elevates Aftercare at TNCS!). These imaginative and lively pursuits have been supplanted of late with sports, music, arts, and other programs offered both onsite at TNCS and offsite at partner organizations around the city to give older students a wider variety of choices in how they spend their after-school hours as well as to expose them to novel activities such as Parkour and FutureMakers.

Most offerings rotate by school quarter to keep the menu of activities fresh, while some perennial favorites such as sports at Coppermine at DuBurns Arena are constants. See the entire lineup of activities that were available to TNCS students this year on the Extracurricular Activities page of the TNCS website. Brand-new this year, students from local schools were invited to attend TNCS’s after school programming and could opt to be picked up from their school by the TNCS van.

Sound like a lot to juggle? Enter Aida Abebe, TNCS’s dedicated After Care Director, who assumed this role for the 2016–2017 school year. Ms. Abebe coordinates with partner organizations to establish programs; oversees all of the to-ing and fro-ing of students and activity providers; and, most importantly, ensures that TNCS students are cared for and happily engaged in that crucial time between school letting out and parent/guardian pick-up.

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Aida Abebe is TNCS’s simply wonderful After Care Director.

Ms. Abebe only just took over as After Care Director on November 1, 2016, but she lost no time in making it fully her own. She says that it was a lot to absorb at first, but she enjoyed the challenge and likes the work. She describes a typical day as including interviewing, hiring, and training staff; making schedules and programs for classes; interfacing with other area schools to spread the word about extracurricular activities at TNCS for non-TNCS students; and overall making sure that the programs are running smoothly, that a robust assortment of programs are available to appeal to a wide range of students, and that the programs are both educational and fun.

Her arrival at TNCS came after staying home to raise her son, now almost 15 months old. She looks forward to enrolling him at TNCS for the 2017–2018 school year. Originally from Silver Spring, MD, Ms. Abebe attended both Penn State and UMBC and now resides in Nottingham, MD. Her degrees are in Psychology and Sociology, both of which serve her well in her current position. She says she has always loved children and wanted to study specifically how the brain develops. Her previous positions include elementary school counselor and preschool teacher. She enjoys kids of all ages—“the toddlers are just adorable, but I get to do a lot more with the older kids,” she said.

Both her parents are from Ethiopia and came to the United States as teenagers; however, they only met in Washington, D.C.—they were not acquainted back home. Thus, Ms. Abebe was fortunate to grow up in a bilingual household, speaking both English and her parents’ native Amharic, a branch of Arabic and Ethiopia’s official language.

Looking forward, Ms. Abebe has already begin devising plans for the future of the After Care/Extracurricular Programs. “One of my biggest goals is to retain a caring and committed group of staff members,” she explained. “After care is not full time, so it can be challenging to find applicants willing to work so few hours each day. They tend to be students, and students are going to be temporary. But we find them!” Another plan she has is to bring back the clubs so that “we have tons of after-school activities going on.”

Each TNCS instructor also lends his or her skills to the lineup. Take, for example, K/1st-grade teacher Kiley Stasch’s cooking class, in which students had a wonderful experience, learned some cooking basics, and expanded their taste horizons. As an end-of-quarter bonus, Ms. Stasch compiled all recipes that the class tackled in this downloadable cookbook: 2016–2017 Cooking Class Recipes.

What are the most popular extracurricular activities? Latin dance, run by Professor Manuel, was the runaway favorite so far this year. “The kids also really enjoyed duck-pin bowling at Patterson Lanes and swimming at the MAC,” she reported. Especially exciting, kayaking debuted for Q4. All of these wonderful and diverse offerings come with administrative strings attached, which Ms. Abebe deftly manages. Minimum enrollments must be met to run certain programs; costs must be monitored to keep programs affordable for parents. When something doesn’t work out for one of those or other reasons, she has a back-up course ready to launch.

Speaking of launching . . .

“I love this school,” said Ms. Abebe. “It’s by far the best school I’ve worked in. There’s such a great staff; they really care about their students. I also love the emphasis on nutrition and time spent outdoors. It’s an all-around great school, and I’m happy to be here.”

And TNCS is happy to have you, Aida Abebe!