October 2, 2003


New staff for Mills Lawn after school program

After school lets out every afternoon, about 30 Mills Lawn School students stay behind, some of them tucked away in the module out back reading and drawing, others climbing the Lincoln logs and playing basketball. They are supervised and sometimes organized in a group activity, but they are mostly free to create their own fun as they see fit, consistent with the philosophy of the Mills Lawn After School Care Program.

Photo by Diane Chiddister

From left: Azsa Coleman, Shardé Scott and MacKenzie Rocquemore, students in the Mills Lawn After School Care Program; the program director, Ayanna Williams; board president Jerome Borchers; and student Eileen Borchers.


Ayanna Williams, who once taught in the program, has returned this year as the new director, and she has plans for some new events. Students will have a chance to learn from volunteers from the Boonshoft Museum of Natural History, the Ohio Highway Patrol, the Ohio State University outreach unit and the Greene County educational services anti-bullying program. Lectures, exercises and group discussions with representatives from these organizations will allow the students to learn and foster skills for social interaction, Williams said.

But the children also need to be given space to formulate their individual identities. “You can’t make them be the way you want them to be, but you can give them tools,” she said. “They will learn when it’s the right time to pull it out and use it.”

Williams, whose daughter MacKenzie attends the program, lives in Yellow Springs and is studying multicultural education at Antioch College. Her focus on dialoguing in a multi-ethnic community relates to the interactions her after-school children are experiencing with each other.

“The relationships we have as adults start from experiences we have as children,” she said. “It’s important to gain an understanding of others’ experiences.”

Williams has replaced former director Eric Weikert, who left at the end of last school year. The president of the program’s board, Jerome Borchers, said the board chose Williams because of her experience as former director of the after-school program at the YWCA in Dayton and because of her popularity with program participants.

“She’s very qualified, and the kids love her,” Borchers said. “My daughter, Eileen, was very excited when she heard Ayanna was selected.”

That’s Miss Ayanna to most of the children in the program. They are learning how to respect themselves and to respect each other.

The staff Williams has put together for this year is also new, though not necessarily unfamiliar. Carmen Lee, a former Community Children’s Center teacher, is the program’s head teacher. She and Williams will work with Andrew Thornbury, a work-study student at Wright State, and another student to coordinate activities and be available when the children need help or advice.

As activities and events coordinators, Lee and Thornbury said that they plan to get the students into cooking chocolate fondue and learning to play instruments such as the ukulele. But not until their permanent space in the Mills Lawn gym is completed.

The module is comfortable and quiet, the teachers say, and it is a space outside the actual school building that the program’s children can call their own. But they are also looking forward to moving into a more permanent area with an office just off the gym, Williams said.

The board is also looking forward to having a bigger indoor space for the program, Borchers said. Though program coordinators came up with many good ideas last year within the confines of the temporary gym, the school construction made things difficult.

Since the program began four years ago, tuition has remained at $160 per month for full-time students, and part-time students pay depending on the number of days they attend, Borchers said. The nonprofit organization has also begun to accumulate funds through Street Fair parking fees to subsidize tuition for families who need assistance. The scholarship fund allows the program to maintain a student body with more diverse economic backgrounds, Borchers said.

Borchers said the board is considering expanding the program into the summer as an all-day child-care resource with the same staff and philosophy. But for now, coordinators are focusing on the children who are there and giving them attention and encouragement.

Lee said that the teachers are working with the children to develop a self-imposed disciplinary system so that the students know they have to abide by rules they themselves created. Being in school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is a long day for the students, and they do better if they feel that they have some control, she said.

Williams agreed, and yet she also wants to be there as a support for them when they need it. “I want them to work it out themselves, but I also don’t want them to be afraid to come to one of us,” she said.

—Lauren Heaton