By Mark Brasfield

Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Democrat Editor

After waiting about a year, Cedar Park Elementary School and the Trumann School District finally received a federal grant recently worth $1.6 million for afterschool and adult learning programs.

The 21st Community Learning Center grant provides Trumann with money for an afterschool Y.M.C.A. program and trade classes put on by Arkansas State University Technical Institute (Marked Tree) at the Trumann school.

The three-year Y.M.C.A. afterschool program is for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Y.M.C.A. personel are currently going through steps to become license caregivers.

The Y.M.C.A. charges $30 per week for each student and an additional $25 for other added students. However, the fee is not a membership fee and only includes the afterschool program.

CPES has 60 scholarships available for the program, but the applicant must be qualified for a free or reduced lunch.

"We are going to give those out to the people who are the most in need," said Greg Sheets, school program director.

"There will probably be some type of scale too," program activities coordinator Rick Harmon added. "It won't necessarily be all or none. Some will get $15, some will get $20, some will get $30."

The K-6 program includes a learning academy, which lasts from 3:35 to 4:35 p.m. The tutoring sessions, however, are only for those in second to sixth grades. Trumann Promise and certified teachers will instruct the children.

The get active club, part of the Y.M.C.A program, goes from 3:10 to 6 p.m. The club begins with a snack, then has indoor/outdoor activities, followed by quiet time, when the child can read or do homework. The program will go all day long during the summer, and a bus will be available to deliever students home.

Newport, Marked Tree and Westside also received the grant this year. Jonesboro High School, Nettleton and Paragould currently have the grant. The 21st Century grant has been given to just 28 of the 371 school districts in Arkansas. There are 1,500 afterschool programs nationwide.

"Its real overall purpose is to improve the quality of life for the people in the community," Sheets said. "We've been told many times that any time a survey has been taken that asks people if there is a need for an afterschool program in their community, the overwhelming response is yes. I think that we can do a lot of good for Trumann in this particular program. What our real purpose is as far as the students are concerned is to give them the opportunity to engage into some activities that give them the ability to grow in a supervised, safe environment. What we want to do is try to keep kids from being on their own when their parents are working. And keep them out of trouble. This program is for everybody."

Karleen Sheets wrote the grant, which was ranked first in Arkansas and 49th nationally by the 21st Century organization. She put in about 200 hours on the proposal.

The afterschool program will begin the first day of school, Aug. 20.

"We didn't want them to have to figure out what they are going to do for two weeks and then be able to come to the program," Harman said. "We wanted them to go a head and start when school starts. It's not just during school. When we're out for spring break, when we're out for Christmas vacation-it's not just during school time, for parents that work, they'll have somewhere to put their kid."

Sheets said the only time the school wouldn't have the program is on a snow day.

High School Benefits

Elementary students aren't the only ones benefiting from the grant.

Students in grades 7-12 will have a tutoring program for English, math, science and social studies. No times had been set as of press time.

The Trumann High School and public libraries will be open until 5 p.m.

Also included throughout the year:

*Mini-classes-at least three every nine weeks-- taught by high school teachers. The classes include babysitting, using computerized babies as an instructional tool, personal training, and computer and science classes.

*Teen clubs-special interest groups such as photography and others.

There will also be a parent-involvement program, which will be run by Debbie Francis and Jim Robb.

The grant allowed the school to hire a target case manager or social worker, who will work with families in depth. Amy Ball, the target case manager, will also provide individual and group counseling -working with Mid-South Health Systems-- and help families get access to medical care, dental services and health insurance.

Shannon Montgomery, the school resource officer and certified policeman, will work out of the Trumann Police Department. He will spend most of his time in the high school building, but will visit each school campus. Supt. Joe Waleszonia will oversee the entire program.

Community Benefits

"The afterschool program is set up to support the students and their needs, but there is a community part to it also," Sheets said. "We have adult programs too. These (adult programs) are going to be coordinated by Jim Robb. He's going to be working with Arkansas State University Technical Institute (in Marked Tree) to do most of this stuff. People from ASU Technical Institute are going to be coming to the high school, primarily, and they're going to teach G.E.D. classes and adult literacy classes. They'll teach some technology literacy classes. Then they'll have some parent education classes and leisure and personal activities-things like flower arrangement and embroidery and types of things like that."

Harmon echoed, "We're excited about it, I think there is a lot of need for it in the community. The purpose of this is to help improve the educational system, not just elementary, but elementary through adults."

The grant pays for most of the schooling, but students may have to put up some money for certain classes.

"Everything (other than the Y.M.C.A portion of the program) is pretty much free-it's all paid for by the grant," Sheets said. "Those scholarships are paid for by the grant to...There may be some charges for (the adult education classes) depending on what they are doing. Like if they have a welding class or something like that, they may have to charge a fee for materials. There is not necessarily a cost involved, we'll just have to wait and see."

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