Learning Outside the Classroom

Above: Students in After-School on an adventure – learning skills and having experiences to last a lifetime.

 

by Cecilia Hernandez, M.Ed., Director of Extended Learning


The minute I walked into Para Los Niños for my interview, I knew I wanted to be here and call it my work home. For the past 12 years, I have had the pleasure to be part of the PLN family. My initial role was Site Supervisor for the After School Program. Throughout the years, I learned and gained various opportunities and experiences, leading me to where I am today – the Director. In this role I have the opportunity to create and provide learning opportunities to all our students outside the classrooms through After-School, Summer Program and additional off-school initiatives.

Part of my role is also creating and sustaining partnerships with collaborators and other organizations to provide exciting opportunities for our students. We have partnered with Inner City Arts, the Young Musicians Foundation, Young Storytellers Foundation, the Colburn School, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Aquarium of the Pacific, Newport Landing Whale Watching, San Diego Zoo, the Reptile Zoo, Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center, and Vision to Learn, to name a few.

I hold a strong value in ensuring the community needs are met, while holding high standards for quality programming. The main goal of our work in Extended Learning at PLN is to provide safe, educational, recreational, enriching programs for all students enrolled, paired with family and community involvement.

During the challenging time of COVID-19, PLN did not hesitate to continue supporting our students and families. In response, our department developed virtual programs full of interactive and enriching activities for students in collaboration with the Charter Schools for students in TK-8th grade. During the summer of 2020, we created and provided a virtual summer camp experience for all PLN students to continue to have the social development and community opportunities – from a safe place.

Our team produced and distributed hundreds of lesson plans and packages, so students had all the materials and items necessary to participate fully, plus we included boxes of food for the entire family to be supported during remote learning, and through such a stressful time.

I’m very thankful for the amazing team I have the privilege to work with; a group of dedicated, passionate individuals who work tirelessly to provide students and families essential opportunities through quality programs.

Through all of this past year, students and staff continue to inspire me to be the best I can be, and to continue to do this work. I’m passionate about serving inner-city youth, children and families. As a product of after-school programs myself, I understand the importance of providing quality programs,  how essential these opportunities are and the benefits they bring.

My purpose is to create opportunities that foster growth, development and meaningful experiences for all. In my tenure at PLN, I get to see this happen through the long-term relationships I have built and that continue with students and families throughout the years. I love seeing our alumni return to PLN to volunteer, to visit and seek advice and share their future plans – knowing they have the tools to make it happen.

Cecilia with a student graduating, who was a previous PLN student and After-School participant.