Connellsville after-school program helps participants to explore possible careers
Mixing homework help with fun and interesting activities is the formula for a successful program as the Afterschool Enrichment Program celebrates its third and final year in Connellsville Junior High School.
Made possible through a grant acquired by the Private Industry Council from the 21st Century Community Learning Center of the Department of Education, the three-year program was put in place to help students with everything from confidence and self-improvement to homework help and tutoring guidance.
“It was first started to help with PSSA scoring with math and reading,” PIC Youth Specialist Julia Sefcheck said. “Now it's a good way for the students to also get homework help while offering interaction and activities.”
Students are referred by faculty, parents or even themselves to the program that takes place Monday through Thursday throughout the school year.
“We focus on a lot of different things here,” Sefcheck said. “Homework is first, then we work on achievement enrichment, activities, STEM projects and different ways to get the kids to think about what they are doing. They do a lot of hands-on activities where they actually have to create something or solve something.”
The students work on different projects throughout the year, with many team-building and problem-solving activities offered.
“This is something that really helps the kids,” instructor Vince Corrado said. “They learn additional skills here that they might not learn in a regular classroom.”
The program is offered at Connellsville to seventh- and eighth-grade students, but a few ninth-graders have taken part in the program.
“Some of these kids come back year after year,” Corrado said. “No one forces them to come. They come because they enjoy it.”
The program has increased in participation and interest over the three years and is now offered in other districts and schools in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“We went from five schools to 18,” Sefcheck said. “We have a total of 480 students who take part in the program.”
While the program is winding down in Connellsville, it is just starting in other schools. A summer program also is offered.
“We try to make an impact on these students,” Sefcheck said. “It's not only about study and activities, but also about interaction with each other and socializing.”
Sefcheck said that the program helps the students become aware of potential career choices and future paths that can be explored.
“We talk to them about their interests and we work on character development and then we try to get them to focus on careers or talk to them about going to college.” Sefcheck said. “I really think that this is a great program and we try to help them expand their horizons.”
For information on the program and its availability, call the PIC offices at 724-437-2590 or 724-836-2600
Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.