Joshua Connally, 12, wants to play in the NBA one day. His favorite team is the Golden State Warriors and he gets to practice every day after school.

“It’s always been my dream to be on the court,” he said. “And look at all those people. And I can just look back and see how I started and then how I am now.”

Joshua, who attends Meadowbrook Elementary School, is one of thousands of students benefiting from the Fort Worth ISD After School Program. Different campuses have different options at an elementary school; at one school, students are creating a newsletter. At another, a book club gathers for stories written by African American authors. 

Although the experiences vary, the programs are designed with the same purpose in mind: to provide high-quality before- and after-school programs in a safe environment that result in educational, physical and social development. 

Fort Worth ISD After School students at a First Tee lesson. The students attend on Saturdays to learn about golf and other leadership lessons. (Courtesy photo | James Cole)

Joshua’s mom, Sonia Connally, said she appreciates the programs the school offers because she works until about 6 p.m., so her child has somewhere to go that provides guidance and leadership while helping him learn.

Fort Worth After School’s latest addition to the scorecard is a partnership with the First Tee program to help students learn about leadership through enrichment activities and golf.

The collaboration is part of a leadership program aiming to teach students both what leadership is and how to be a good leader in the community, said program coordinator Natasha Bayaro. The One Thing Better foundation helps fund and partners with the district for the lessons. The program is open to sixth- and seventh-graders at Meadowbrook, Rosemont and William James middle schools. Students will assist with planning, organizing, leading and participating in different school and community events to get hands-on leadership training.

Leadership values

The Fort Worth ISD program focuses on teaching students nine different leadership values. Those are:

  • Responsibility
  • Integrity 
  • Respect
  • Courtesy
  • Confidence
  • Honesty
  • Sportsmanship
  • Judgment
  • Perseverance 

Each month, students will focus on a different value and have different lessons and activities on weekdays. That allows the students to go to First Tee on Saturdays with an understanding of the value and ready for the lessons as they apply to First Tee’s program and golf, Bayaro said. The goal of these kinds of programs is to help motivate students to come to school and give them positive activities and experiences.

Joshua enjoys the sports program, where he learned about proper footwork when playing football and how to throw a baseball, and he attends the First Tee program on Saturdays. 

He didn’t know much about golf before the program, but now he’s getting better at it, he said.

Fort Worth After School is over 20 years old and has provided structured after-school programs for students primarily in third through 12th grades. It serves over 6,000 students daily and is funded by various nonprofit organizations.

Everyone is encouraged to join, but Bayaro said at-risk students are especially encouraged to participate. 

What are Fort Worth After School goals?

Bayaro outlines three goals the program has:

  1. To promote educational competence for academic achievement standards in core academic subjects. 
  2. To enhance physical and social development by offering students a broad array of additional high rigorous activities designed to reinforce and complement the academic program for participating students.
  3. To reduce juvenile crime rates by students involved in education, educational, nurturing and a safe environment.

The new opportunities for students are some they might not be able to get at home because of a lack of money or other resources, Bayaro said. The job of the coordinators is to bring in activities the students want to engage in.

One example is the newsletter club at Bill J. Elliott Elementary School, she said. The teacher goes over grammar, sentence structure and other writing skills with the students. They’re getting writing enrichment while doing something they enjoy.

Students interview teachers for teacher highlights. They take photos for the newsletter. They write about happenings at the school. They brainstorm ideas together. All of this, Bayaro said, lets the students use creativity and critical thinking in a fun way.

Another club is Delta Sigma Theta, a historically African American sorority, that gets children together to read books by African American authors. This club is at the primary level, Bayaro said, and it helps develop the reading skills of the students.

Children also can get extra help on their homework with a teleteacher program. This is after hours homework assistance for students.

Joshua likes his teachers and the help he gets. If he doesn’t understand something, they slow down and explain it to him until he understands.

There’s still time to join

Interested in enrolling your child in Fort Worth After School? Visit this page for information and to contact program coordinators.

Other options include learning about culinary arts, robotics, college and career readiness, Bayaro said. 

She notices the children learning more and improving their grades, but Bayaro also said she sees behavior adjustments in the students who participate. They do better on the days they have their core classes, which are math, reading, science and history.

“Students are excited about coming to the after-school program,” she said. “They’re always learning something that will benefit them on the core days. We also highly encourage our staff to communicate with the core day teachers … to see what the students are struggling with so we could be able to incorporate it in the after-school program in an enriching, fun experience.”

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the grades the program serves.

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. 

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Kristen BartonEducation Reporter

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has previous experience in education reporting for her hometown paper, the Longview News-Journal and her college paper, The Daily...