AMA Afterschool is a new virtual after-school program founded by a North Brooklyn resident who is passionate about both education and the community.
AMA is described as a safe, engaging, online community where students in grades 6 through 12 have access to personalized academic assistance, workshops, and opportunities to interact with peers. Their mission is “to use modern technology to provide the support and guidance that are so crucial to academic success.”
Greenpointers spoke with AMA founder, Eric Samulski, to learn more about this new initiative.
Greenpointers: Could you tell us a little more about you and your life in North Brooklyn?
Eric: I was born and raised in NYC… I’ve been teaching at a private school on the Upper East Side for a decade and living in Williamsburg with my wife for the past six years. We love it here and have participated in North Brooklyn events over the years. We’ve also become pretty avid neighborhood walkers since the pandemic… strolling up to Greenpoint Brewery and Glasserie or over to Taste of Heaven or 18th Ward Brewing. I was also part of the initial East River Ferry street team, working at the docks and helping to explain the ferry during that first year.
Greenpointers: You alongside two other educators launched AMA. What led you to create this program?
Eric: Even before the pandemic my partners and I were disappointed with the way education was failing to make reliable use of technology…and not truly optimizing how adept kids are with technology. We had also noticed an alarming increase in teen anxiety and stress as a result of competitive college admissions, school entrance exams, and the pervasive competition fostered by social media. Many schools are not able to provide consistent support systems for struggling students, and often those students fly under the radar. They perform well enough in school that adults may not notice, but they stress for hours over their work or feel totally isolated in trying to solve their academic or social problems. Because many online resources can be even further isolating, we wanted to create a place that felt more like a community.
Greenpointers: You describe AMA as an after school community. Why do you feel it’s important to use language like this?
Eric: Online resources can feel isolating. We wanted AMA to be a place where students could show up consistently and see the same faces and also interact with their peers. For a student to thrive both academically and emotionally, they must feel seen and understood. At AMA we believe it’s vital that students not only have consistent access to expert support systems but also that those systems be led by friendly faces.
Greenpointers: What makes AMA different than other after-school programs?
Eric: For starters, I would say the biggest difference is that we are not simply a tutoring program; we are an after-school community, and we use that last word because we truly strive to be a place where a student or teacher consistently feels like they belong.
This is not a one-session space where students can find a quick answer but a place where they can come repeatedly for any number of different reasons. Perhaps they want to get their work done at home while seeing other students their own age. Maybe they want to work quietly but have a teacher available nearby should they have a question. Some students may want to meet new peers who share interests while joining a workshop in a non-academic area of interest. Others can bring their already existing friends to study groups. All of that can be possible in one space at AMA Afterschool.
Another crucial difference is that we treat each student individually so that we can provide tailored, optimized support.
When students and educators sign up for tutoring, they both fill out longer than normal questionnaires so that we can learn who they are as a learner/teacher as well. This enables us to pair students with a teacher that will not only help them in the subject they need assistance in, but one who has a teaching style that will best set the student up for success. Similarly, when students attend our Study Halls, we see which subjects they frequently ask for help in and our educators can offer suggestions for additional ways to support the student in that given subject.
We also create a consistent feedback loop so parents can feel informed about their students’ progress. Parents can then choose to share that feedback with the student’s school. At AMA we work to ensure that a student gets the most thorough, consistent support system possible. Further, our feedback process also provides accountability and transparency in our practices. In doing so, we ensure students are getting the most they can from our programs.
Lastly, all educators on our site are experienced classroom teachers. This distinguishes us from many of the online resources out there. Teachers who have worked in the classroom have unmatched experience in figuring out the needs of individual students and differentiating lessons to fit multitudes of needs and learning styles. We also believe strongly that teachers are experts in their field who need to be treated like it and compensated for it. Many teachers have to work second jobs to support their families. Traveling from school to tutoring appointment after tutoring appointment can be tiring. By allowing teachers to work from the comfort of their own home, and around their own schedule, we can give them the flexibility to earn additional income and allow them to reach students from outside of their own neighborhood or city. This creates an opportunity to help a broader community of students and teachers.
AMA will be running four workshops over the summer, which you can read about on the blog. They will also be rolling out a Virtual Study Hall program before fall. Sign-up via the blog or at amaafterschool.com.