Getting dramatic after school

River, who participates in our after-school programs at the Institute for Collaborative Education, was featured in a production of Alice in Wonderland

By Melissa Aase, CEO of University Settlement


University Settlement runs the after-school programs at 17 schools in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn

Each program partners closely with the school community and is guided by student voice and choice, extending learning into the evening hours and creating peace of mind for working parents 

At Manhattan middle school ICE, the after-school drama club proved so popular that the school added drama as an elective 

University Settlement’s 17 after-school programs create fun, safe environments where young people in our communities can begin discovering their passions and charting their paths forward.

While each of these programs share University Settlement’s core values, including community, creativity, and collaboration, they are also each guided by our students’ voices and choices, which can lead unexpected and inspiring places!  

I recently checked in with River, an eighth-grade student at the Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE), a middle school in Lower Manhattan, where Kristin Gruppuso runs the after-school program for us. 

River shared how participating in after-school with us has made an impact on her future:  

“I was excited when I got into ICE because the after-school program has a drama club, and there was never anything like that where I went to elementary school. 

I’ve done every play since I got here. In my first show, I played a raccoon in the ensemble. Then I was the lead in my next play. We’ve done two plays every year, so I’ve been in six total!  

Right now we’re doing a show called Appropriate Audience Behavior that focuses on an audience watching Hamlet. My friend is playing Hamlet. In real life, he’s really quiet and loves to read, but in the show, he has to scream at us, which is funny to me. It’s interesting to try to be different people.  

I’ve made a lot of friends here. Sometimes, when we’re gossiping backstage, Kristin will pop in and ask ‘What’s going on back here?’ She always has awesome stories to share, too. All of our after-school teachers are really nice, I like them a lot!  

Next year I’m going to a performing arts high school for technical theater. I’m excited to make costumes and build sets. I would never have discovered this interest without after-school – and this program has prepared me for what’s coming in high school, so I’m excited.  

I think anyone who joins after-school at ICE will find something they really like.”

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