A very unique hybrid model for educating Muslim youth exists in our midst and is innovative in its approach.
Because not all families can, or choose to, send their children to full-time Islamic schools for a myriad of reason, is the only option to get access to Arabic and Islamic studies instruction on the weekend? No, now there is an afterschool program catering to youth so that they can improve their Deen every day so their life is not compartmentalized into two halves – public school during the week and Islamic programming and Muslim friends over the weekend. That is the model for the Young Muslim Evening School (YMES) at All Dulles Area Muslim Society(ADAMS) Main Center in Sterling, Virginia.
Now in its third year, YMES currently enrolls around 70 children from 2nd to 10th grades two days a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. The program runs from 5:30-8 pm and the first session of 45 minutes to ease transition is either study hall to complete homework from school that day or what the students prefer – fun, social clubs such as sports, board games, robotics, arts and crafts, and cooking.
This first portion is run by parent volunteers and allows the professionals The curriculum has been designed by Imam AbdurRafaa Ouertani, ADAMS Deputy Imam, and is meant to follow the public school method of being interactive with games and prizes to keep the kids engaged and awake since they have already put in a day of study prior to arriving.
When asked if this day is too long or too tiring, says Saima Syeda, age 12, “No, I want to come. I like to learn together with people like me and the teachers are young. In regular school the teachers give you a funny look if you ask too many questions; here they like if you do ask lots of questions! They also respect if you are tired but not falling asleep!” Her friend, Iliyeen Ahmed, also 12, concurred that the environment and the format are fun and engaging. Indeed it is these middle schoolers that relish the program the most it appears – to have the peer to peer connections during this high pressure time in their lives. So much so that they are loath to leave when they go to High School even though the demands of homework have increased. Says Samiyagh Ahmed, 14, “I am still coming and learning new things. It keeps me motivated. I don’t have a lot of free time but it is worth it.” Like others, she hopes to eventually becoming a teacher helper or volunteer by her Junior or Senior year to stay involved.
Because of the success so far, plans are to add a Tuesday/Thursday cohort next fall. Also currently there are occasional social activities such as movies or bowling and weekend workshops on technical topics like computer graphic design. YMES is actively searching for speakers and sponsors to grow to add such workshops as web design, calligraphy, and both creative and essay writing. ADAMS Sully Center in Chantilly will also be replicating the program and is now enrolling. For any other masajid interested in learning more about setting up their own program, even if the facilities don’t have a gym or kitchen since other creative solutions can be found (like installing a basketball hoop in the parking lot), contact ADAMS as they are willing to be a resource or share curriculum; Contact Bro Sohel Ahmed,ADAMS YMES School Program Head at firstname.lastname@example.org.