When teachers are not focused on preparation for the STARR test, the staff at Oliver E. Clift Elementary provides unique experiences to inspire a well-rounded student through a program called Clift Academy.

According to txschools.gov, Clift Elementary proves to be the most diverse campus in Waxahachie ISD with 28.9 percent Black, .5 percent Asian, 25.7 percent Hispanic, .8 percent Pacific Islander, 2.7 percent two-or-more races and 41.4 percent Caucasian.

“No other elementary school has that make-up. It’s almost a balance, and we love that because, to me, that’s the real world,” said Christi Kubin, the campus principal.

Clift is also the second highest economically disadvantaged campus at 64.2 percent, trailing only Marvin Elementary (67.1 percent). Kubin noted with the last district rezoning, the student population at Clift grew from 374 to approximately 515, which made for a slightly challenging year with several changes.

Clift Academy gives those fourth and fifth-grade transfers a chance to identify with peers. Every fifth-grade student also has his or her own teacher mentor to build more camaraderie on campus.

This is the third year for the program to operate at Clift, as it initially took place at Northside and Felty the year before Clift got on board. Dyslexia specialist Ashley Mendoza, a former Felty teacher who was reassigned to Clift, played an instrumental role in establishing the program on campus.

Aprille Andrews, a third-grade teacher, assisted with grant writing to obtain new materials for the clubs, and together they gathered data and conducted research about the importance of hosting academies.

“It is a fun, stress-free time where we can interact with students from different grade levels,” Andrews said.

“We get to focus on other skills besides grade level standards. It also gives the students an opportunity to shine in other areas besides academics,” Mendoza added.

Once a month, the students experience a club for a little over an hour. Club options change every nine weeks, and range from exercise, volleyball, coding, board games, STEM, music appreciation, reader’s theater, and art.

The students are sent home with the list of clubs and mark their three favorites. Through these experiences, the children are shown different opportunities to excel in, which gives them confidence in the classroom and might encourage them to pursue an extracurricular activity.

The students are exposed to different students in their grade level, students in other grades as well as teachers throughout the building.

“It helps build relationships throughout the building. So then if you have a student is having a bad day, or maybe needs to be redirected, you can always go to that professor,” Kubin explained. “It’s another adult in the building looking out for kids, and make the environment more safe and secure.”

Kubin explained these clubs serve as a baseline to provide a global view and might inspire a student with a career.

New programs this year are the coding and knitting clubs. “One, it helps with their dexterity, two, it helps with their concentration and gives them that sense of accomplishment. All of that builds on their academics even though it might not be related,” Kubin said.

Community members and those who serve in administrative roles within WISD also participate and host clubs. Tammy Minyard and her daughter, Jules, from the Facebook group, Rocks-a-Hachie, have helped with the Kindness Rocks Club. Clift Elementary visitors will soon see a rock garden placed near the flagpole.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450