BOONE COUNTY — Through a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the West Virginia Department of Education, students and teachers at Sherman Junior High, Madison Middle and Van Jr./Sr. High schools are broadening their horizons through this special after-school program, according to Nora Dotson, Federal Program Director for Boone County Schools.
“This program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly those who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools,” Dotson explained. “The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.”
The program has served over 102,000 students in West Virginia since 2004 and there are currently 169 sites operating around the state.
“21st Century Community Learning Center programs are delivered before school, after school and during the summer months,” Dotson said.
Boone County has two 21st Century Learning Center Grants, Dotson said.
“For middle school students, the Explore and Soar program is used and we also have the newly awarded Project GOAL for high school students,” she said.
Explore and Soar is using STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) through art and science integration to improve grades, increase test scores and supplement classroom learning, according to Dotson.
“Students are also receiving assistance in college preparation, learning about a variety of career opportunities through the guidance of tutors and mentors and getting to know their peers by working on team projects,” she said.
In addition to learning at their respective schools, students in Explore and Soar travel to the Clay Center for special educational trips.
Recently, students visited the Clay Center for a performance by Philadanco, the Philadelphia Dance Company and to see artist/performer Kevin Reese in Apollo to the Moon.
“This is a partnership with the Clay Center,” Dotson explained. “This program is beginning its third year of operation and our students are getting one-on-one tutoring, homework help and special apprenticeship opportunities with professional artists, scientists and business leaders thanks to this program, which is funded by the West Virginia Department of Education.”
Students have attended Explore and Soar Summer Camp, participated in art and science connect in challenge America projects, been introduced to engineering, had NASA training, participated in cooking projects and some artists have even visited Boone County middle schools and helped to work on projects with the students.
The high school program GOAL, which stands for Gaining Opportunities for Life, will target high school students in all the Boone County high schools who are at risk for dropping out of high school, according to Dotson.
“Project GOAL was developed with a team of partners, including Boone County teachers and administrators, parents and community leaders, Boone Career and Technical Center, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College and the Clay Center,” she said.
Dotson says the three goals of the program are to increase the graduation rate and decrease the drop-out rate, get students career and college read upon graduation from high school and engage parents and community members in the education process.
“Each year builds a student’s capacity for success,” she said.