History of the Wizard’s Wardrobe:
In June 2014 , a group of members from Albany's First Presbyterian Church who had been volunteering in Giffen Memorial Elementary School (GMES) to support teachers in the classroom were inspired by the TED talk “Once Upon a School”, and set out to establish a one-to-one after-school tutoring program in the South End. They incorporated one year later as the South End Neighborhood Tutors (S.E.N.T) and looked for a space to build the program.
In the Spring of 2016 they began planning the renovation of space leased from the Albany Housing Authority one block east of GMES. This space was large enough for our needs and conveniently located, but it had been the industrial kitchen for the Meals on Wheels program, and it needed extensive renovation. A $50,000 renovation began in October 2016, tutors were recruited and the program was planned . More than 30 volunteers assisted in the renovation.
Alongside the facility planning and renovation, a retired, certified teacher supported the building of a research-based literacy framework of materials, activities, and strategies for tutors to be trained in and to use with students, in an after-school creative learning environment.
In February 2017 - May 2017 we opened our doors to seven (7) students, and “The Wizard’s Wardrobe — Where Reading is Magic!,” became a reality. It is a safe space and its imaginative theme aims to remove perceived stigmas associated with going to a tutoring center.
October 2017 to May 2018 was our first full year offering. Over 20 trained tutors worked with 10 students in the first year. Our first year ended in the publication of students’ writing, giving them the opportunity to see the impact of their own work.
In the 2018-19 school year, 30+ trained tutors provided individualized tutoring to 16 students. The Wizard’s Wardrobe hired its first part-time Executive Director, and maintained a dedicated corps of community volunteers to offer our students individualized attention and cultivate a welcoming and creative after-school learning environment, focused on strengthening literacy skills so children can experience the magic of reading, succeed in school, and lead productive and healthy lives.
Looking ahead, we look forward to welcoming more students and tutors into our program. Let the magic continue!
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