Site of the Month: Creekside Kids’ Country
Kids’ Country at Creekside Elementary School has been a model before and after school program for six years since the school opened in 2010, serving an average of 150 students a year in before and after school programs and enrichment classes. Site Director Sylvia Hodge, who has been with Kids’ Country for nearly 26 years, is a beloved figure in the Creekside community. Ms. Sylvia is supported by her team of six teachers, two aides, and her two Assistant Site Directors, Ian Garcia and Emma Amoranto, both elementary school teachers from the Philippines who have been at Kids’ Country for over 15 years.
A long time leader at Kids’ Country, Ms. Sylvia has been a major force in facilitating accreditation at our 13 sites. As Coordinator of Kids’ Country’s Accreditation Committee, Sylvia serves as a mentor for staff and has helped numerous sites meet the quality and environmental standards required to become accredited by the Council of Accreditation (COA). Kids’ Country is the only after school program in the Bay Area with accreditation at all 13 sites and is one of the largest programs in the state. When asked why this is so important and how it impacts the Creekside community, Sylvia responds, “Parents want the best and highest quality program for their kids. We took a year at Creekside when the school opened to forge strong relationships with the parents, kids, school staff, and community at large. The outside evaluators from COA look at the strength of these relationships as well as indoor and outdoor environments, activities, diversity, and health and safety and they have been impressed. We continually meet COA’s quality indicators.”
What the kids think
Kids’ Country believes in giving children the space to explore and engage in areas of interest that are unique to them. Walk into Creekside on any afternoon and you will get a flavor of how engaged the children are in a variety of activities. We visited the site on a Wednesday, Club Day, and were immediately swept into a flurry of group projects. In the older kids’ room, a group of girls in the Jewelry Club were making jewelry. Outside, Mr. Ian worked with the Carpentry Club, where he supervises a group of boys and girls as they saw wood in preparation for making their own wood crafts: small toys, cars, napkin holders and the like. Mr. Ian comments, “This is a group of 1st through 5th graders, so their wood projects are tailored to their age.”
In a corner of the school yard, the Drama Club rehearses “Fairy Tale Mystery Theater,” adapted by head teacher Cindy Kelly from a radio series and based on the fairly tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This diverse group of budding actors is highly focused. A number of Drama Club members have already performed in other plays including an anti-bullying play and The Three Little Pigs. For others like Jadon Gray, this is his first time in the Club. “I wasn’t that interested in drama until Ms. Cindy asked me to play Papa Bear. I asked my mother if it would be okay and she said yes, so here I am,” said Jaydon, a 3rd grader. Now he wants to participate in the next Drama Club performance.
Down the hall in a Creekside classroom, Kids’ Country’s Resident Artist and Curriculum Specialist JP Neang is leading an enrichment class called Curiosity Kids. One of our popular STEAM classes (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math + The Arts), the children are learning how electricity works using fruit, foil and other items to light up objects.
Sophia has enjoyed the way that Kids’ Country always provided an at-home atmosphere in which games and activities are creative and fun… There were many days that she made a point to tell us that she wanted to stay for a certain cooking event or craft projects.
-Kris Huff, parent
Support from Parents
Creekside is one of many Kids’ Country sites where kids are having so much fun, they aren’t always ready to go home. Ms. Sylvia credits this phenomenon to the exceptional teaching staff she works with and to the parent community. “When kids really want to finish a project and their parents show up, sometimes the parent will sit down and work with their child,” she says.
As parent Kris Huff wrote, “[I want to] personally thank you for the program that you run at Creekside and your helpfulness with finding space within your program for Sophia this school year. It has been a blessing to our family and we hold you and your program in the highest regard.
Having served in various roles with Kids’ Country and at various sites, Ms. Sylvia knows how distinctive each community is in the San Ramon Valley. She is especially proud of the diversity of the Creekside school community and surrounding neighborhood and the engagement of the parents. Each spring Creekside hosts a special STEM Fair and Variety Show for Creekside families that includes presentations by the Drama Club and other performances and spotlights the children’s STEM projects Kids’ Country children celebrating the diversity of the community. The STEM Fair and Variety Show will be held on Thursday, May 12th at 4:00 PM at Kids’ Country, Creekside.
A Fond Farewell
After 25 great years with Kids’ Country, we are sad to announce that Site Director Sylvia Hodge is retiring this month. She leaves a tremendous legacy at Kids’ Country and it is with her care and enthusiastic support that our organization has evolved into a mature, expanded learning environment where kids are thriving. Kids’ Country Executive Director Stacy Litteral says, “Sylvia has been a constant shining star at Kids’ Country. She exemplifies what Kids’ Country is all about and we will miss her greatly. I am honored to have worked with her for the last eight years and wish her all the best as she moves on to the next phase of her life.”
As parent Kris Huff notes, “An inviting and safe environment does not endure without the steady dedication and most importantly the kindness of Sylvia Hodge and her wonderful staff, who ensured that our daughter would be cared for and comforted within our daily family routine.”
Sylvia and her husband Jon are preparing to move to Colorado Springs later in May to be with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. To say we’ll miss her is an understatement. But as Sylvia herself writes, “To me Kids’ Country was never a “place”, it was and is and always will be a wonderful “village” of parents, Elementary School and Kid’s Country staff representatives who are singularly dedicated to providing a safe, secure and growth providing environment that is worthy of our children.”
Thank you, Sylvia! And thanks to the entire staff of Kids’ Country at Creekside. We celebrate you all, and of course the kids and their families as we launch our first Site of the Month: Creekside.
To read Sylvia Hodge’s reflections on her 25+ years at Kids Country, click here.
Kids’ Country is pleased to announce that Dani Sams has been named as Site Director at Creekside. She has been with Kids’ Country for 23 years, most recently as Site Director at Quail Run, where she has been since the school opened 10 years ago.
“I’m so excited to join the Creekside community,” Dani said. “It will be hard to fill Sylvia’s shoes, It will be hard to fill Sylvia’s shoes, but following in her leadership makes this a great opportunity for me. I’m thrilled to become part of a community that is so established and organized. I look forward to meeting the kids and parents and to engaging with the Creekside school staff and administration.”
Sylvia Hodge is also thrilled about Dani’s appointment. She writes: “What an awesome choice! They will love Dani here. How coincidental that I replaced Dani’s mom at Vista Grande in 1996 as Site Director and now Dani is replacing me 20 years later.” Sylvia’s last day is Friday, May 13 and Dani will begin her tenure at Creekside this summer.