Spotlight: New York Edge
Lavern Mason-Howard of New York Edge
New York Edge (Formerly Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation) is a nonprofit with the mission of helping bridge the opportunity gap among underserved students by providing programs designed to improve academic performance, health and wellness, self-confidence, character, and attitudes for success in life. Operating between 3 and 5 days each week for 36 weeks during the school year, they offer combined academic enrichment curricula including: literacy, STEAM, leadership, High School Today College Tomorrow (HSTCT) and Middle School Today High School Tomorrow (MSTHST) with sports and wellness, music, visual, and performing arts opportunities and trips to educational and cultural institutions. Following a nutritious snack period, these programs are designed to enhance the learning that takes place during school hours. New York Edge believes in the power of positive influence and working extremely hard to create an environment that is supportive, creative, and fun.
We spoke to Lavern Mason-Howard, Manager of Licensing and Training, about the work she does for the betterment of New York children, families, and communities. Lavern began working in the after school field in 2002, as an Administrative Director for a Center based CBO that offered both early childhood education and school-age child care services. She was accountable for supervising the school-age child care staff and ensuring compliance with all City and State guidelines, regulations, and laws. Later on in 2008, Lavern served as Education and Training Director for a different CBO. There, she was responsible for staff development,
supervision, and evaluation of several after school programs. Lavern started her current position with New York Edge in 2013.
When asked why she began a career in this field Lavern told us, “the primary reason for my decision to pursue a career in out-of-school time was my wanting to be more available for my children when they were growing up.” Earlier Lavern had felt as though she was spending too much time on commuting to work and wanted to give more time to her children. When she changed careers she first began substitute teaching, as she was always interested in education. Lavern stated that, “the work was so fulfilling to me that I constantly wanted to learn more about the field.” In order to do so Lavern attended various training and development workshops, attaining Family Development Leadership Credentials, becoming a Child Abuse Identification and Reporting Trainer, a CPR and First Aid Instructor, and ultimately obtaining a Master of Arts Degree in Education, with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Technology.
In her current role she is responsible for overseeing licensing for over one hundred and twenty programs throughout New York City, ensuring that each program’s SACC license is maintained so that the programs operate in compliance with Department of Health Regulations. She is also responsible for developing, scheduling, and conducting training workshops and information sessions for staff development. Lavern has also implemented an Internship Program for the past three years in which career readiness opportunities are provided for High School and College aged students.
Lavern discussed with us how afterschool, summer, and expanded learning time is important to children, families, and the community. She had a great deal of positive things to say about afterschool and expanded learning for children. For example, that field is important as children have a place to go that is safe and they are provided with educational services while also being able to have fun and engage in experiences that they might not have the opportunity to do without the services. This includes being introduced to a variety of activities such as chess, robotics, arts, and sports and getting the opportunity to go on many trips and visit various exciting educational and cultural sites throughout the city. After school programs also prepare kids for life, by developing their life skills, i.e., learning to work cooperatively, and social and emotional development. Essentially, out-of-school time programs help families by providing a structured resource for children now as well as putting them on a path that will help them move forward in th, in turn, and this in turn benefits the community.
When asked what her favorite part of her job is Lavern said, “being able to help people have that light bulb moment, when they truly get how it all relates.” Lavern added that there is so much cause and effect in the field of out-of-school time, and oftentimes, people don’t see the correlations of how it all works together. She adds that it is important to her that people understand the “whys;” like why ratios have to be met; why training is important; why safety protocols have to be followed. It all boils down to the children, and keeping them safe which is key in order for them to continue having great experiences in programs. Once the program is operating compliantly, then other “bells and whistles”; activities, special events, incentives, and enhancement can effectively be added to the program.