Nambo in first year leading elementary school district’s HUB Program as director
District recently received grant to fund program through 2024-2025
ROCHELLE — Yazmin Nambo is in her first year as director of the Rochelle Elementary School District’s HUB Program.
The program is specifically targeted to support the district’s K-8 at-risk youth using a before and after-school model plus summer school. The program has been fully-funded by a state grant for the past 10 years, and the district recently received word that it has received the grant again to fund it for the remainder of this school year and the next two years.
Nambo said she and other members of district administration were anxious to hear about the grant, and that so far this year the program has operated with smaller numbers and a limited, first semester-only budget due to previous uncertainty. Now, expansion will come due to the grant money.
"It was really exciting getting the news that we'll be receiving the grant again,” Nambo said. “It was just exciting to be able to share that. When I told the staff, it was so nice to see the teachers' faces light up. I'd run into them in the hallways and they'd say, 'I'm so excited I get to keep teaching and doing things with the students.' It was very rewarding to hear. Because we have a lot of families, kids, teachers and staff members that really enjoy it and benefit from it. I think it affects the whole community, not just our schools."
Nambo said the HUB Program has been going “really well” so far this year. Elementary students have been taking part in activities such as making piñatas and learning state capitals. Middle schoolers in the HUB Program are learning about hydroponics.
Nambo was previously a special education teacher in the district and had a desire to get into administration and recently earned her master’s degree. She accepted the position over the summer after former HUB Program Director Amy Hayden became the principal at Lincoln School. Nambo was previously a HUB Program teacher, which has helped her as director.
“I've really enjoyed it so far,” Nambo said. “Everybody has been really welcoming. It's a learning experience for me this year. I've been able to make really good relationships with all the staff members. Teaching at HUB in the past has made it a lot easier. One of the hardest things has been dealing with the funding uncertainty and budgeting and staying within the budget we had allotted. But now that we know we'll have the money, I want to focus on bringing experiences. We have a lot of supplies already so we're spending less on that and bringing in more experiences for the kids."
Those experiences could include bringing Rockford’s Discovery Center Museum and Atwood Center and more to the HUB Program for activities for students. Nambo also hopes to bring in positive role models for HUB students, and she mentioned Rochelle Township High School students helping to fill that need.
Brainstorming is ongoing to raise numbers for the middle school’s HUB Program.
“We seem to lose our students at that level, which makes sense,” Nambo said. “A lot of them are more independent and want to do other things. We're trying to come up with more activities and things that will hopefully draw them in and get them to stick around. We're talking to the high school to see how we can engage with some of their clubs and bring it to the middle school level and see how we can keep our students engaged at that level."
Nambo believes the HUB Program makes a “big difference” for students, families and the community as a whole. She’s enjoyed seeing students she taught in the program come back to volunteer at it, and some have even entered the education field.
The HUB Program helps some families that can’t afford after-school daycare. HUB staff can help students that are struggling with a particular academic subject. The new tutoring program at RMS that utilizes Northern Illinois University College of Education students has been able to offer transportation for students that participate through the HUB Program.
“I think overall, it just provides a lot of support,” Nambo said. “Not just for our students, but the families. We're trying to do as much as we can for them. One of the things we're starting is the FFA and our HUB students planting crops at the greenhouse. They'll harvest them and we'll send the food home with students with a recipe so we can provide a meal for families.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were doing remote learning, the HUB Program was still offered to students via Zoom. Nambo said during that time, HUB just “wasn’t the same” and saw “not many kids” participating. It became an opportunity where HUB teachers could be available to give extra help to students that needed it.
Nambo called the remote time of the HUB Program “really hard,” but said the program being able to return to its full form has been “impactful.”
“Students were excited to come back to HUB and be able to participate in those activities,” Nambo said. “I think it made everyone value our after-school program a little more. Because we are able to do things that we typically can't do during the school day. And we're able to provide that extra support for our students who are struggling because of the impact COVID-19 had on education. I think it's definitely made us value the HUB Program a lot more."
After the recent receipt of the grant, Nambo said those involved with the HUB Program are “very excited” to be a part of it going forward.
“We're really just working on getting volunteers and community involvement,” Nambo said. “If the community ever wants to be a part of the HUB Program, they can always reach out and come in and get involved with us."