Becoming an expanded learning opportunity (ELO) provider with Prime Time has benefits beyond just sharing its message with the children and youth of Palm Beach County. Prime Time offers professional development opportunities to all our providers and recently Callie Sharkey from the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County got to experience benefits from this program she never could have imagined.
Sharkey attended the Beyond School Hours Conference for the past three years using scholarship funds from Prime Time. Prime Time offers scholarships to afterschool professionals to attend conferences to learn new practices and gain invaluable knowledge. After attending the first year, she was inspired to become a presenter. At the 2023 conference, Sharkey did just that and was approached by Beonny Aureli, a representative from University of Kansas Center of Positive Youth Development, to attend the Kansas Connections Conference (KCC), a conference dedicated to out-of-school time (OST) professionals in and around the state of Kansas.
Sharkey was flown to Kansas on behalf of the Kansas Enrichment Network to present her Stories and STEM program at the KCC in September 2023. When she arrived at the conference, Sharkey networked with other OST professionals from Kansas, Oklahoma, New York and other neighboring states.
“I was thrilled at the idea of bringing what we’re doing here in Florida to a completely different part of the country,” said Sharkey.
The first day of the conference Sharkey presented her Dollar Store STEM: Science on a Budget to a full room of afterschool directors. This presentation is dedicated to showing examples of simple, screen-free and cost-effective STEM activities that can be brought to children and youth attending their afterschool programs. The directors were then led through one of the hands-on STEM activities that was replicated from the work being done in Palm Beach County, Florida. Following the presentation, Sharkey was approached by multiple directors to see if she could give them the instructions for the other STEM activities. Her presentation the next day, BOGO: Adding a STEM Component to Literacy Learning, was geared toward afterschool practitioners themselves. The presentation was the perfect example of Sharkey’s ELO program Stories and STEM, which integrates a love of reading with a love of STEM. Sharkey made sure to stress that a love of reading, fiction and non-fiction, can be sparked through STEM activities and vice versa. From the Squish graphic novels, National Geographic picture books to the Hidden Figures chapter book, all types of reading are included in this type of programming. She also had the opportunity to attend other programming at the KCC. Sharkey attended sessions by local Kansas afterschool professionals and plans to take those lessons and integrate them into her practice in Palm Beach County.
Following her return from the conference, Sharkey has been buzzing and encouraging her colleagues to take part in the professional development opportunities provided by Prime Time. She wanted to stress that her presenting opportunity in Kansas all began from attending Beyond School Hours Conference in Orlando using funds from Prime Time.
“I think this opened up the opportunity in my job,” said Sharkey, “that I get to do more.”
In 2021-2022, the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County impacted more than 1,000 youth through its expanded learning opportunities at afterschool programs in Palm Beach County. To learn more about this and other Prime Time ELOs, please visit: www.primetimepbc.org.