Grayson County Middle School has applied for just under $500,000 in grants to keep their after-school and summer programs running over the next five years.
Curriculum Coordinator Becky Pearl explained that the grant would allow the school to continue offering students these programs which provide a wider range of benefits than most people realize.
“For some students, it offers them a place to be after school instead of going home to an empty house. It offers them an after school snack; help with homework and projects; access to internet, which some do not have at home,” Pearl said. “And it just offers them a lot of enrichment through various activities such as drama, archery, cooking classes, robotics, and physical activity.”
The Cougar Zone after-school program and the school’s summer program are each currently in their sixth year running, and the school has already seen the difference it has made for participating students.
“The kids who attended the after school program sessions regularly had a 50 percent increase in reading and math scores last year,” said Pearl.
The School’s 21st Century Learning Grant Coordinator Melanie Manion, these programs are hugely important because they go a long way toward keeping kids safe and out of trouble.
“If people will look [at the research] they will see the numbers of out-of-school programs and what they are doing for our students. A large majority of middle school students will be out on the street doing things they shouldn’t be, getting in trouble, being unsupervised, trying drugs or sex or whatever; and the more programs we can provide for them and keep them involved in school activities, the better,” Manion said.
She went on to explain that available information shows that the vast majority of criminal activities committing by kids of middle school age occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.. That’s because they’re unsupervised. Parents are working. I think if we can keep this program alive and keep other programs alive for out-of-school time in afternoons and summer, it will show a tremendous growth in becoming responsible young adults.”
The Cougar Zone after school program provides an enriching environment for 6th through 8th graders between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays throughout the school year. The summer program is open to students during much of the summer break.
Pearl explained that this is the first year since the programs’ kick-off that the school has not received a grant to fund it.
“This year, because we feel like this program is so important to students, we are running it on volunteers and donations from community members.”
One side effect of trying to run the programs at no cost was losing the shuttle service which provided kids a way to get to and from the summer program or to get home in the afternoons during the school-year.
Manion called this “one of our biggest downfalls this year” and said that finding the funding to get the shuttles going again is extremely important for students.
Pearl went on to say that without this grant, these programs will likely be forced to come to an end altogether.
“Our community needs this,” Manion said. “We welcome anyone who has programs that would like to come in and volunteer some time.”
If awarded the funding through a 21st Century Learning Grant, which is given through the US Department of Education, the school would receive $100,000 per year for three years, then another $95,000 per year for each of two years afterward.
Reach Brittany Wise at 270-259-9622 ext. 2014.