Empowerment Factory keeps kids creative and involved

Empowerment Factory keeps kids creative and involved

The Empowerment Factory launched its Read-A-Thon event Monday as part of a three-week competition to encourage kids to read more. Standing with students showing off their books are teacher Wendy Fachon, left, and executive director as well as teacher, Gail Ahlers.

PAWTUCKET – Staff at The Empowerment Factory have been trying to keep children engaged during this unusual pandemic summer with free, mostly virtual programs.

The nonprofit on Main Street focuses on three areas of development: creativity, self-esteem and civic pride. It focuses on empowering youth through after-school and summer learning programs.

This particular summer has been quite different with COVID-19 but the group, using some creativity, has kept young people involved and social while also keeping them safe.

“It’s been a real big pivot for us to do distance learning programs,” said Executive Director Gail Ahlers. “It’s allowed us to have new partners. And whatever helps to reach the kids.”

TEF promotes blended learning. Ahlers said that about five years ago, she asked her after-school club what they wanted to call themselves, and they came up with the name Creative Squad. That squad is still around today but everything now happens virtually.

The club involves writing, reading, story-telling and art projects. Members meet once a week, on Mondays, and there are four different time slots for students in grades 2-5, grades 2-3, and 4-5. It’s a one-hour session, led by Ahlers, beginning with a mindful moment. Then they will read a book together and talk about how it relates to their own feelings and experiences. They finish with an art project as well as a two-minute dance party.

Starting this week on Monday, July 27, and running for three weeks until Aug. 17, is a Read-A-Thon event. Children read, earn points and help give books to hospitalized children. Registered students can log their pages on the TEF’s online student portal. The top readers in each grade who read the most will earn prizes, Ahlers said. She noted that books and dolls will be donated to the Tomorrow Fund.

If anyone has any issues registering for the event, Ahlers said they should contact the organization at 401-365-1010.

A real-live event, Art in the Park, happens every Wednesday, where school-aged children in grades 3-5 participate in making art at Fairlawn Veterans Memorial Park. Ahlers said that since the pool at the park is closed this summer, the city allowed them to use the facility for this event.

The event won the 2019 Program of the Year as an environmental program for children, Ahlers said. This year it’s slightly different since the class is limited to 20 children. Pre-registration is required for the free program.

“It’s been going great,” Ahlers said about the program so far this summer. “Every session a kid gets a book, art supplies and a blanket to sit on.”

The session tonight, July 29, from 6 to 7 p.m. will be Drawing Dragons. Upcoming themes include Butterfly Terrarium, Nature Drawings and Recycled Robots.

Other virtual programs TEF has been holding are the Environmental Detective Club meeting once each week and Nature Drawing classes, split into two groups meeting twice per week. They have also partnering with city-based Shri Yoga for children, once a week as a 30-minute session.

TEF has also been holding a monthly Creativity Contest for students in grade K-8 who live in Rhode Island. Ahlers said participants can enter by writing something or drawing something related to that month’s theme.

This month’s theme is “What is Friendship?” It will run until Friday, Aug. 14. On Aug. 15, the theme “What is Teamwork?” begins.

TEF has been able to put on all of these free programs after receiving a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Ahlers said they welcome people to get involved with the Empowerment Factory, whether becoming a new board member or just volunteering their time. If interested, emailgail@empowermentfactory.org .

Ahlers said she is hoping to get some small, in-person events together for the fall as well as more virtual events.

“Being Miss Gail is my favorite job,” she said. “I get to bring joy and happiness.”

The kit that has been delivered to each member of The Empowerment Factory’s Creative Squad for virtual, distance learning. The Creative Squad meets once a week and is for students in grades 2-3 and 4-5.