Last Friday afternoon, the cafeteria at the New School for Leadership and the Arts (M.S. 244/NSLA) was buzzing with excitement. The students had been dismissed for the weekend, but about 300 of them were still sticking around. These students were excited because they were staying at school even later.
The after-school program at NSLA is incredibly popular. Tuesday and Thursday are mandatory study hall days, where students can get help on their homework. But the reason why the program has the 50-person waiting list is the “activity days.” Students pick three activities to participate in every Monday, Wednesday and Friday out of 34 total offerings. Every six weeks, they pick another three activities, so everyone gets a chance to try out something new.
A small sampling of the activities include archery, drama, table tennis, baking, total body fitness, soccer and rock band. Just this year, the school has added a computer coding program, Air Cadets, fencing and fashion design.
Aurora Hernandez, the parent coordinator and assistant director for the after-school program, walked around the school to check in on the different activities. She was looking for the step team, where dancers stomp, clap and hit their body to create their own rhythmic beats.
“Excuse me officer, is Step in there?” she asked, pointing to the doors to the auditorium.
Before the officer could reply, a series of loud booms came from through the doors.
“Oh yep, there’s my girls,” she said.
Inside the auditorium, Sharrone Usher was leading her new class through the basics.
“Attention!” she called, and the students snapped into place.
“Give it to me one time!” and the students stomped once.
“Break it down now!” was answered by three quick stomps.
Then Ms. Usher had six returning team members come to the front and give a demonstration of a few dances from last year. As the new students looked on with awe, and perhaps a little apprehension, the six girls performed the complicated-looking dances with ease.
Back upstairs, Ms. Hernandez checked in on one of this year’s new activities, a beats-making class led by local DJ Michael Patrick, who goes by DJ Uneeq.