Schools offer learning centers

WARREN – A new 21st Century Learning Center after-school program is combining learning and recreation for sixth- to eighth-grade students at Jefferson and Willard schools in Warren.

As students meet for a few hours after school Monday to Thursday receiving tutoring on their school work, they then spend time enjoying various forms of recreation such as karate, violin, chess, taekwondo, cooking and tennis.

Kevin Stringer, program organizer, said the after-school program is designed to improve the students’ academic performance and to enrich the total learning experience of the child.

“We have time set aside for licensed teachers to work with students. The teachers are more accessible to help the students one-on-one in a fun atmosphere,” he said.

Jill Merola, supervisor of community outreach, said the children can meet with the students in smaller groups focusing on reading and math and more one-on-one learning.

She said the first half of the three hours is learning and the second half is recreational activities. The program starts at the end of the school day and concludes between 5 and 5:30 p.m.

Field trips have included bowling and children visiting and singing to residents at Washington Square Nursing Home.

Other trips being planned include concerts and museums.

Bill Bell, site coordinator at Jefferson, said in addition to math and language arts academic assistance the students are also learning life skills, social learning and character building. Technology is also incorporated into the learning.

Merola said social skills and character building are part of the $850,000 state grant acquired for the program which will be held from November to May for five years. She said in addition to the grant, the program partnered with Warren Weed and Seed which helps cover costs for bringing in different speakers and programs. The grant covers materials, busing costs and teachers’ pay.

Bell said the students have enjoyed the learning including a recent craft activity where students made brownies while learning about measuring and proportion.

Melissa Holmes, site coordinator at Willard K-8, said three family nights with different themes are planned for the year with two already held on games and science.

“We believe that parental engagement is necessary and integral to help a student learn. The programs shows parents new ways to help their children learn by making it fun or having to work together as a family,” Holmes said.

Merola said the school district was able to work with Chess is Life and Ohio State University Extension Office.

Bell said student behavior is also part of the program with a goal to not only improve student learning and grades but behavior.

Stringer said they have seen a survey from teachers who said they have seen changes in students’ grades and behavior.

“We want to build a good rapport with the students and want to see them succeed academically,” he said.

Stringer said it is important to get children exposed to violin or taekwondo that they may otherwise not be involved with.

Giordan Bercheni, a seventh grader, said enjoys getting to spend time with her friends and feels she received help to improve her grades. She also enjoys the arts and cooking and making stir fry.

Abigail Kinter, a sixth grader, said she wanted to get better grades and has done better in social studies. She enjoys tennis and karate.

Merola said parent involvement is very important. She said another program for adults, “Peace in the Family,” instructs parents on how to deal with stress, talk to a child and deal with anger issues.