The Whitney aftercare experience

Social Studies teacher Craig Whitney opens his room to students after regular school hours as a place to do homework, wait for a ride, eat some food and make some friends.

Freshman+%28left%29+Katherine+Kallas+reads+a+book+while+Emma+Peck+%28right%29+draws+on+her+Surface+Pro.+Both+freshmen+come+to+Whitney+aftercare+on+most+school+days.+photo+by+Gabby+Ayala

Freshman (left) Katherine Kallas reads a book while Emma Peck (right) draws on her Surface Pro. Both freshmen come to Whitney aftercare on most school days. photo by Gabby Ayala

by Gabby Mesa and Gabby Ayala

story by Gabby Mesa

You look to your left and see a plate of pancakes. You look at the whiteboard to your right and see a sloppily drawn hangman. You listen to the sound of music, and you realize that a few of your closest friends are all around you. For sophomore Isabelle Fleming, this is the “Whitney Aftercare” experience.

Social Studies teacher Craig Whitney stays after school until around 5:30p.m. everyday, and his room is open to students who need to stay late for reasons ranging from not being able to drive to needing a place to go before sports practices. Whitney’s room has not always been open to students after regular school hours.

“[Before Whitney Aftercare] I tended to stay after to do some work,” Whitney said. “It was not unusual for me to stay until 4-4:30 most days anyway.”

Administration took notice and asked him to become an after school room for students. Whitney’s after school room has now been open for approximately 6 years.

“Over the course of 6 or so years there have been some really interesting personalities that have made their way through,” Whitney said.

This mix of personalities can end up creating unlikely friendships. According to Fleming, some of the friendships that she has created were solely because of being in the room after school.

“A lot of us have made friends because of it,” Fleming said. “Hanging out with people repeatedly, you get to know them and whenever you see them in the hallways you can say hi to them.”

More than a mix of personalities, there is also a mix of grades in the room, which according to Whitney can also result in some unlikely friendships.

“Maybe two thirds of the group are freshmen and sophomores and then you have a few seniors,” Whitney said.

The majority of girls, especially freshman, in Whitney’s room are waiting for a ride home. Some people like freshman Katherine Kallas live far or have parents who are working, which makes the availability of the room very convenient.

“My mom has to stay at her work until after 3, and we live about 35-40 minutes away, so it’s kind of a drive. And she can’t pick me up until later,” Kallas said.

According to Whitney situations like this help create intergrade friendships.

“Outside of the after school group, they wouldn’t come in contact with each other.”

For Fleming, that was a big part of the draw to Whitney’s room. She explains how the mixture of grades in the room has made a difference for her.

“Its cool to have friends here in other grades, because I probably wouldn’t know them otherwise,” Fleming said.

The girls who spend time in Whitney’s room don’t just make friends; they make food.

Since Whitney advises cooking club, they may make sure what’s left from club day doesn’t go to waste.

“There’s not any kind of rhyme or reason to it, it’s just kind of spur of the moment,” Whitney said. “If I’ve got stuff left over we just roll it out, put it together and make a little something something.”

According to Whitney, the food has recently been along the lines of pancakes or waffles, but it can get pretty random. Senior Hannah Dobson, who goes to Whitney’s room after school, can even recall a time when they had scrambled eggs. Like many of those who stay in Whitney’s room after regular school hours, she has plenty of stories to tell about the food.

“I remember one time he brought a leftover cake for us all to eat,” Dobson said.

Dobson considers the room more than a place to find a little extra food after school. She described the small group of regulars that stay after school as a “family.”

photos by Gabby Ayala

Fleming, who has been a part of the regulars, explains why she goes to Whitney’s room even though she often has the choice to go somewhere else.

“When I’m here it’s because I want to hang out with the people that are here,” Fleming said.

According to Dobson, the comradery within the “Whitney afterschool group” does not exclude Whitney himself.

“I just remember the funny conversations we have with Mr. Whitney.” Dobson said.  “Not like he’s a teacher, just a person.”

When asked about her after school memories, Fleming had similar sentiments.

“I just remember laughing a lot,” Fleming said. “At people, with people.”

The environment of the room can either be light and comedic, serious and working, or a mixture of both according to Whitney.

“I think it depends on the rhythm of the school year.” he said.

For Kallas, the tone of her afterschool experience depends on her homework load.

“I’m one of those people who has to do homework first thing when I get home,” Kallas said. “I’ll get right to homework and if I don’t have a lot I’ll just talk to friends.”

Dobson would recommend this experience of friends, food, and family to anyone.

“If you need a place to go,” Dobson said. “Whitney’s room is the place.”