New Playground!

Thinking back to your childhood, did you ever realize how exciting it was to play on the playground at recess?  It was even more exciting to go to different places like recreation centers, schools, and community parks to find that each playground was different and had its own uniqueness. Although most playgrounds are different in structure and style, they all share some common characteristics.  They are common areas for children to play, build social skills and entice their imagination.

When Willow Branch Apartments were first built, the playground could accommodate only a small number of children.  As Star-C Programs began to grow, so did the Willow Branch Community. As a result, families with more children began moving in, and the small playground became overwhelmed with the daily play activities.  Our concerns for the play area to child ratio were resolved once Star-C learned that KaBOOM! and the CarMax foundation has awarded us a new playground.

The build of the playground was an intense, yet exciting project. One of the major days was Design Day, which occurred on March 26, 2018. The kids were asked to draw what their ideal playground would look like. The different drawings included wheel swings, slides and monkey bars. (Just to name a few.) Once they completed their drawings, they were asked to present which components on their playground were their favorites. The remainder of the day consisted of community leaders, parents of the children, KaBOOM! CarMax and Star-C Programs using the info the kids provided to choose equipment and amenities for the actual playground.

From there, the planning and decision-making phase consistent of weekly phone calls and in person meetings.  It was an extensive process that led up to build week in May.  On Tuesday, May 23, we had Prep Day. Prep Day consisted of a group of volunteers from CarMax, Star-C and KaBOOM!  During the day, we received and organized parts, playground equipment and other supplies.  We cut wood for side projects and did some pre-construction work to prep for the actual build.  Prep day set the stage for Thursday, May 23, the actual Build Day, where over 200 volunteers from Star-C, CarMax and KaBOOM! helped us to build a phenomenal, new playground for the children at Willow Branch. To top off this amazing day, the CarMax foundation surprised Star- C Programs with a check for $10,000.

As we know, giving back to the community is valuable within itself. Star-C Programs has been given the unique privilege of receiving so much support from our community, in helping us to continue to grow our mission. On behalf of Star-C Programs, we would like to give special thanks to all our volunteers, the CarMax Foundation and Kaboom! This playground would not have been possible without all their hard work and dedication!


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Reading….is fun!

When it comes to reading, I believe most don’t give enough credit to what impact of books and reading have on an individual. Books and reading offer experiences through the context, develops imagination and creativity, is a versatile option for entertainment, and one of my favorites, improves your writing skills. With generous community donations of all types and levels of books, the children who attend the after-school program hosted by Star-C programs can experience this. To keep their reading experiences interesting, Allie Reeser our after-school program director at Willow Branch Apartments, has come up with a book point system. Each book located in the Star-C Programs library is assigned a point value, which is noted inside each of the books with stickers. Once the book is read by the students, they must complete a book report referencing the name of the book, how many points the book contains, the plot of the book and one of their favorite parts of the book. Once the student has presented their book repot, Allie awards them the points from the book they have completed.  They can continue earning points with every book/book report they complete.  Eventually with the points they have earned so diligently, they can use them the after-school program store to purchase healthy snacks, candy and small school supplies. This program not only encourages our kids to keep reading, but it gives them a sense of self-improvement, because with every book/book report they complete, they feel accomplished!

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Let’s tackle Literacy!

The Georgia Literacy Commission (GLC) was formed after a Deloitte study revealed the potential crisis looming for Georgia’s businesses that are struggling to identify an educated and literate workforce for jobs now and in the future.

  • The study found 1 in every 6 workers in the state is “low literate,” or can’t read well.
  • Over one million Georgians lack basic literacy skills.
  • Low literacy in the workplace costs Georgians $1.3 billion annually.

As a result, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, and Literacy For All have partnered to create the GLC.  A subcommittee, the Housing Authority Literacy Taskforce, was formed to create a toolkit that housing authorities, private developers, landlords and apartment communities can use to boost literacy among their residents. Star-C’s executive director, Audrea Rease, and a very active board member, Dan Smith, are on the task force to share best practices and determine strategies landlords can leverage.   The tool kit will provide communities with several ways to improve literacy through certain programs that serve financially disadvantaged families. Star-C and Willow will be used as a model in the toolkit. Star-C and Willow have already shown how operating an after-school program such as ours can reduce turnover, increase educational achievement outcomes, improve school district ratings, all while the community provides rental rate stability for residents.  This team has hopes that literacy tool kit will impact the lives of both landlords and the residents, as a result creating success stories, funding models, suggested practices, sample programs and ideas on how to get the program started in communities around the state.

“Throwback Thursdays”!! National Dental Health Day.


d-john-2.jpgFebruary is known an National Children’s Dental Health month. We decided to bring awareness by offering the kids who participate in the Star-C after-school program “a day at the dentist” on site at Willow Branch Apartments. A good friend, Dentist and Orthodontist, Dr. John Clinebell volunteered his services to give our kids some insight on why dental health is so important. Dr. Clinebell gave a presentation and taught the kids why we brush our teeth and the proper way to brush our teeth. His lesson also included a game where the kids identified different foods and if that item was good or bad for their teeth. As Dr. John Clinebell ended his lesson, he allowed the kids to tap into their creative side. They participated in a project where they had a chance to decorate new cups that would hold their new toothbrushes. This project encouraged the kids to reflect their personality as well as create something that will keep them excited about practicing the new dental health skills they just learned, daily.


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The Ben Franklin Academy Book Drive.

Star-C Programs is always honored to benefit from surrounding schools and other organizational programs that take pride in giving back to the community. Recently, the Ben Franklin Academy’s Philanthropy Club supported us by hosting a book drive. The book drive was led by Adele McLees, who is a senior at Ben Franklin Academy and a frequent volunteer at Star-C’s afterschool program.  Working together, the Philanthropy Club members collected 100’s of books. The book drive started back in October 2017, shortly after our very own Audrea Rease, Executive Director, paid a visit to the Philanthropy Club at the Ben Franklin Academy.  She shared with them the story of who Star-C Programs serves and what Star-C Programs offer to the community.

For many of the children enrolled in our afterschool program, English is not their first language, so these books will be very beneficial. Once they complete their homework, they can choose a book to read, which helps them to strengthen their English language skills.

In addition to collecting the books, some members of the Ben Franklin Academy Philanthropy club spent the afternoon with the kids, helping with homework and reading aloud to them as they sat in small groups, eager to hear the stories and see the illustrations that went along with the book.

We greatly appreciate Ben Franklin Academy’s efforts and the support of the broader community for Star-C’s after-school program.  They give us the tools to keep investing in our children’s education, allowing them to become more successful.

   It’s “Throwback Thursdays” Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the “Peace Playground!”

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Each year on January 15th, we have the honor of being able to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., across the globe. As a result, the Star-C after-school program took part in the celebration, by highlighting the life and the key philosophies that Dr. King left behind. Through an event Star-C participated in during the summer called “Peace Playground,” coordinated by our after-school director, Allie, and the Northlake Church of Christ, the children revisited the principle of peace advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King. The children demonstrated their understanding of each principle with their creative expressions in the forms of art, dance, singing. During past “Peace Playground” events, the children created banners, which highlighted what they learned from the principles that day.  This time the following peace principles, “a loving community makes a peaceful world,” “fight bad things, not bad people,” “be peaceful when others are not because that is the peaceful world we want,” “be peaceful on the outside and inside,” and “the whole world is on the side of justice,” were reenacted through a play put on by the Star-C kids.  The children also made a new mural honoring the Civil Rights movement, and the mural will hang in the after-school area all year.

Although school was out for the children at the Star-C after school program on this day, they all took full advantage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to celebrate by demonstrating their own understanding of what Dr. King fought and died for, for this country. They all expressed how exciting it was to bring “Peace Playground” back for this day, and they look forward to more “Peace Playground” events in summer camp later this year!

Star-C Programs Monthly Breakfast!

Thank you to everyone who attended the last Star-C Programs Monthly Breakfast!

Star-C Programs hosts a monthly breakfast at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, where we convene community, business and government leaders to discuss our efforts to improve education with affordable housing.  Last week, approximately 50 leaders joined us for our first breakfast of 2018 to talk about how we can work together to move the needle on these issues.

Representatives from Georgia Power’s Energy Assessment & Solutions Program (EASP) also attended.  The EASP is designed to assist income-eligible customers with energy savings through education and *free* home efficiency improvements.  This program has generated big utility bill savings for the residents of Willow Branch!  More info can be found at . For multifamily property qualifications and program eligibility, please contact 833-347-5433.

Click here to register for our next breakfast on February 22.  Everyone is welcome to attend!