Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Milagro Foundation, Inc.

Program Name

Milagro STARS Program

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

STARS is a comprehensive after-school and summer cultural arts program for low-income children in Palm Beach County, Florida. The main objective of the STARS program is to improve the educational performance and artistic potential of its participants. The Milagro Center strives to be a catalyst for change, a center for creativity and possibility, and a resource to bring the community together through the arts. The Milagro Center is also committed to providing the tools for stimulating the imaginations of children. Many children too often accept the low expectations that others may communicate to them, and never learn to dream and grow into their possibilities. School and other surroundings tend to provide few personal growth opportunities, and scarcity is too often a reality in their lives. The Milagro Center offers an environment in which children have creative opportunities to explore their own self worth, imagine their future, and dream without limitations!

Program Description

Academics:

During the fall and spring terms, STARS participants work daily to refine homework and study skills. Palm Beach County certified teachers instruct participants in literature, mathematics, science, and technology, while practicing reading and writing skills. The Milagro Center utilizes holistic approaches to instruction allowing children to explore language and learn in alternative ways. For example, in the Organic Gardening Class the children read about different vegetables and planting cycles and use math skills for planning and planting beds. In addition to understanding and seeing where food comes, the real growth is in their increased reading comprehension, vocabulary and the real hands-on experience that builds self-confidence as well.

Art:

Children engage in one-hour art tutorials every day, for a total of six classes each week. Professional visiting artists develop their own lesson plans for the entire trimester. The highlight of the day is when these community-based artists share their art and inspiration. The STARS program offers many classes, including: World Percussion, Painting, Pottery, Theater, African and Creative Modern Dance, Yoga, Printmaking, Photography, Storytelling, Computer Graphics, and Gardening. The Milagro STARS participants are given an experience of the arts that is not currently available to them through any other venue, including the schools due to budget cuts. During the summer, children have daily art classes and/or participate in twice weekly field trips to local museums, science centers, and environmental learning centers. STARS program participants' work is presented each trimester in a visual and performing arts showcase.

Living Values Curriculum:

Milagro recently implemented Living Values into their after school program; a creative character building curriculum focusing on values including: love, honesty, respect, tolerance, and responsibility. These creative hands-on activities, shared in a safe, nurturing, and non-threatening environment, increase student literacy, academic participation, and success.

Mentoring:

The Milagro Mentoring Program is a partnership with the Palm Beach Children's Service Council Mentor Center and provides site-based mentoring for individuals and groups enrolled in the STARS Program. The Mentoring Program connects youth with positive role models, a unique feature of STARS. Mentors present solutions and encourage growth in areas where educational and/or emotional deficits exist. Mentors vary in age, gender, profession and work with students 8-12 hours per month; minimum commitment for a mentor is one year.

Milagro works hard to ensure that all classes offered are interesting, that all children participate in classes, and that support is provided to staff and children to ensure success. Milagro also encourages the children to participate in the decision making process, while taking ownership of their work and pride in the center. This policy has resulted in an increased completion of projects, self governance on the playground, and greater cooperation in scheduled activities.

Resource Materials Used in Program

The professional artist/instructors develop their own lesson plans each trimester of classes.

Living Values Curriculum: http://www.livingvalues.net/

The Milagro Center Mentor Program uses the Palm Beach Children's Service Council's mentor/mentee satisfaction survey to evaluate the success of the mentor match. Mentor pairs complete the survey every six months.

Groups Served by Program

The Milagro Center assists elementary school students from households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level; all students participate in the Palm Beach County Schools free lunch program. Currently, Milagro serves 42 children of Haitian, African-American, and Hispanic origin. The Milagro Center targets first-generation Americans with limited English proficiency, education, and acculturation skills.

Thirty-three percent of polled households in Delray Beach live below the federal poverty level, with many working multiple low-paying jobs that require long and unusual working hours leaving little time for the children of the household. Within Delray Beach, 26% of households speak a language other than English at home. Recently, the county's high school graduation rate was 64%. These statistics signal a sharp disparity in economic resources among citizens of Delray Beach that represent the region's general socio-economic condition.

Program Funding

Funding is provided by: Children Services Council, Palm Beach County Cultural Council, Town of Palm Beach United Way, Jarden Consumer Solutions, Goody Two Shoes Foundation, Publix Super Markets Charities, Sun-Sentinel Children's Fund, Palm Beach County Division of Parks and Recreation.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Program staff includes three part time group leaders, one Program Director, one Director of Arts and Volunteers, and many Professional Arts Instructors.

Program Evaluation

Program goals and evaluation methods include: 

  1. Children will display an increase in self esteem. This is evaluated by conducting student interviews, which explore feelings of satisfaction and also give students an opportunity to give feedback on their experience in the program.
  2. Children will maintain or improve academic performance as measured by report cards, school attendance, and conduct and behavior. This is measured by keeping a daily log of each student's behavior and academics and by entering the children's grades and attendance into a spreadsheet.

Program Outcomes

  1. Self-esteem: The most recent student interviews found that 100% of the children who attend Milagro felt satisfied with themselves for their participation in the Winter & Spring Showcases. This result exceeded initial goals. Throughout the process of interviewing students, Milagro staff record responses and initiate changes based upon the information that is received.
  2. Academics: At the end of the 2006-07 school year, 97% of STARS participants were promoted to the next grade. Given that almost all of the students who arrive at the Center are not track for advancement, this is a strong achievement. In the last quarter of the 2006 school year, 88.5% of STARS participants maintained or improved their grade (both academic and behavior) and improved or maintained their attendance.

Additional Comments

Program Contact

Sarah Brothers
(561) 279-2970

http://www.milagrofoundation.org/

Program Dates

This Program began in 1997; it is still operating as of January 2008.