AYS, Ellen Clippinger

Twenty-five years ago, Ellen Clippinger, then a faculty member at Ivy Tech State College, was having coffee with a colleague who was lamenting that, after getting a divorce, she had no place for her children to go after school.

“You know, what if children were kept after school in an after-school program of some sort?” Clippinger said. “We just kept going with the planning and, low and behold, about seven months later, AYS (formally At Your School) was born.

Clippinger, AYS founder and executive director, used her connections as a member of the Parent Board at School 70 to initiate the first programming there. Now, six different school corporations and four parochial schools in four counties benefit from unique AYS programs. On any given day, there are approximately 1,500 children (2,300 are enrolled in AYS) engaged in an AYS program.

“We’re here to help working parents and all parents who want their children to have some kind of a social experience after school, to be with other kids, to learn how to resolve conflict and more. In the beginning, I would say AYS was primarily for the working parent, but it has grown to be a much broader program,” she explained. “AYS complements what goes on in the school day. We are not carrying out the lesson plans that the teachers have,” but school and AYS teachers will work together to assist students with their special interest or problems. Lines of communication are open.

Clippinger stressed another asset of AYS. “We see parents every day so we are prime for discussing issues with them or just celebrating the wonderful things their children have done.”

AYS is also the only agency in the state having accredited after-school programs through the National After School Association that Clippinger was president of for four years, having helped develop the association’s national standards.

“Indiana does not, for the most part, provide for all-day kindergarten,” Clippinger said, so AYS started their own kindergarten program at First Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church in 1987. Subsequently, many school systems have adopted it. AYS also provides special middle school programs and early childhood programs for 4-year-olds.

“We’ve done a lot with literacy,” she added. “It may be a book club in one program or creating a newspaper in another.”

Over the years, a variety of specialized programs have been created. “Kids love to go out and collect whatever is outside on the school grounds,” she said, describing a science-based program. Music, drama and dance programs exist where children write their own plays or learn the violin through the Suzuki method.

“I am very appreciative of staff, some of whom have been with us for 20 years. We’ve grown together.”

-Mary Lee Pappas

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