The Out of School Time Director position is brand new at SPS. Can you describe your role for us?
My job is to support and develop after-school and vacation-time learning experiences for students through partnerships between Somerville Public Schools, the City of Somerville, and community organizations. It’s part of our push for equity work to make sure that all students have rich experiences outside of school, regardless of their family background.
How did you get started in this type of work?
Attending summer camp when I was younger was a transformative experience for me. It was the place that I felt most like myself and a place where I could explore my interests and talents. I started working at a camp as a teenager which gave me a leadership role there.
After college, I interviewed to work at the Mystic Learning Center. As I drove up for the interview, I realized the Mystic Housing Authority was a place I had visited a lot as a child to see a family member. I had all these fond memories of the place. That position turned into a site coordinator position and really got me onto a trajectory to go to graduate school and choose this as my life’s work. The families in that community embraced me. I maintain relationships with many of the kids I mentored, including kids who are teens now and worked with me this summer. This was the start of my career in Somerville.
My next position was Youth Media Coordinator for Somerville Media Center. Many parents may know me from my work with their children there. Families across Somerville continue to be part of my life. I’m a partner and support system for their kid, that’s not a teacher, not a parent, but this other role.
What would you like to accomplish in this role?
The Out of School Time Director was a position that I just could not pass up. It’s the chance to expand programming for close to 5,000 kids! I want to provide every single student, especially marginalized and underserved students, with ways to explore their passions and learn. All the things that transformed my life as a young person – that’s what I want to provide to every youth in Somerville. I am passionate about the arts and community partnerships with local organizations. I want to push the limits of what kids are exposed to – like camping trips – and bridge the opportunity gap between affluent kids and kids with less economic privilege.
How has it been to work for Somerville Public Schools?
I loved working with the district and partners to create the inaugural Summer of Yes program. Having the institutional support from Superintendent Mary Skipper, Somerville Public Schools, and the City of Somerville leadership made it possible to take an idea that had been marinating in my head and turn it into a reality. I would have never guessed that it could be done within a school district, and that it could be free for students!
Tell us about Summer of Yes.
Summer of Yes was a five-week, full-day program that ran at the Argenziano School. We worked with local community partners who developed curriculum using their specific expertise. We hired staff members who provided community building, and supervised and supported the youth in activities. The students took part in mostly hands-on learning with the community partners like Somerville Media Center, Somerville Arts for Youth, Parts and Crafts, Farrington Nature Linc, Parkour Generations, and DEILAB. We had students from the general student community and students from the SPELL program (Summer Program for English Language Learners). It was all free and referral based. We provided a structured, supportive summer experience to students with emotional-behavioral needs and language needs. We put them together in this wild stew and made this magical experience happen. It was a lot of people, a lot of moving parts. I couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out and everyone’s contribution to the program. We built a real community in those five weeks. On the last day, we were all emotional – staff, students, everyone.
What are your plans for the coming year?
I want to continue to reach deep into the community so we can make our programming available to all our students. I plan to continue to develop ways to engage more middle graders in leadership development, community building, arts and performance, and non-competitive athletic programming. I want to support teen employment and leadership and continue the work we did with Summer of YES by expanding community partnerships.
Speaking of out of school time, what do you do in your time away from work?
I have an amazing husband and an incredible cat named Tallulah. I am involved in arts and music scenes in the Boston area. I attend a lot of shows and live performances (when it’s safe) and I run a podcast. I love travelling and the last place I visited was Puerto Rico. I also thrift retro and vintage stuff and have a large collection of VHS tapes!
Do you have any last thoughts?
Kids deserve a space to be kids. A space to develop who they are. For me, that happened in out of school time programming. That’s my vision for our programs, a place for kids to be able to be who they are, to be their wildest and most beautiful selves!
The Out of School Time Director position was newly created in 2021 and Director McCormack joined the Somerville Public Schools team in June, 2021. Out of School Time Director Heather McCormack has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Certificate in Caribbean and Latin American Studies from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She also holds a Master’s in Prevention Science and Practice from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Visit the Out of School Time webpage: https://somerville.k12.ma.us/OutofSchool
R. Ronen, Communications Specialist