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The Voice of the Black Community


After school program teaches socialization
WINGS for Kids develop essential skills
Published Friday, February 19, 2016 4:45 am
by Ashley Mahoney

WINGS for Kids executive director Annie Burton (second from left) dabs during a class. WINGS is an after school school program that helps develop emotional and social skills.













Three hours can change a child’s life.  

WINGS for Kids is a nonprofit afterschool program for K-5 students to develop emotional and social skills at an early age.  

“Really, WINGS is an education program that teaches kids how to behave well, make good decisions, and how to build healthy relationships,” said Annie Burton, WINGS’ new executive director. “We do it by weaving a comprehensive social/emotional learning curriculum into a fresh and fun afterschool program.”  

A Harvard University alumna, Burton joined Wings as the Charlotte executive director in November. Additionally, she brings experience as the former Executive Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, where she studied bridging the divide, which has translated to Wings where she pursues proving that kids can succeed with opportunity.  

“Emotional intelligence is like the I.Q, but I think emotional intelligence is far more impactful for adults and kids,” said Burton. “We focus on the five core elements of emotional intelligence: responsible decision making, building healthy relationships, social awareness, self-awareness, and self management. We do that by teaching 30 learning objectives every week over a full year.”    

WINGS, which operates programs in Charleston, S.C., and Atlanta, hopes to expands to additional locations in the next two years. It engages children between the hours of 3-6 p.m. During that time, they’re placed in an uplifting environment rather than a potentially harmful one. 

“Kids get the life lessons that they need to succeed and be happy, but they also get a safe place to call home after school,” Burton said. “We intentionally work with the most vulnerable students—those who attend Title I schools, and largely it’s because of the fact that research shows that the hours between 3-6 p.m. are really when kids tend to get into trouble, and we take that as an opportunity to inoculate them with the social and emotional learning tools that we believe will be necessary to be successful in their lives both in and out of school.”

The programs also connect local universities with children, with students from UNC Charlotte, Davidson College, Johnson C. Smith University, Central Piedmont Community College and Queens University.

“A lot of our college students, our WINGS leaders, a lot of it is them going back to their peers and referring them to the program,” Burton said. “I think that helps a lot with the institutional memories and knowledge that they gain.”  

WINGS emphasizes the importance of early intervention for children to have the best shot at success throughout life.  

“Our kids are taught that every day that you wake up, things are going to happen, and sometimes they’re not going to go your particular way,” Burton said. “One of the lines in [the WINGS creed] is that ‘life is full of surprises.’”  


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