MEDORA

Homework time, club activities, family nights and service learning projects will continue for Medora students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Corydon-based Blue River Services Inc. recently learned it has received a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant to provide after-school programming at Medora, North Harrison, Morgan and East Washington schools for the next four to eight years.

Blue River Services was awarded $300,000 per year, and through a partnership, Medora Community Schools was awarded $175,000 for its Reach for a Star after-school program at the elementary and junior high schools.

The original grant cycle is for four years, beginning with the 2018-19 school year. For the first time, however, if grantees remain compliant with all expectations during the initial four-year period, the state will allow them to request annual extensions for four additional years.

21st Century Community Learning Centers is a federally funded program providing at-risk students a safe environment during nonschool hours. Programs may be conducted at one or multiple sites, which may be in schools or community- or faith-based facilities.

All centers must provide a range of high-quality services to support regular school-day academics and development, including tutoring and mentoring, academic enrichment, such as homework assistance, reading, math, science and technology programs, service learning, character education, physical education, recreational activities and dropout prevention.

The Indiana Department of Education reported the application round was “incredibly competitive.” Of the 94 applications received and nearly $23 million requested in funding, only 38 applicants received funding.

With the constant threat of funding being cut or eliminated, Julia Baylor, director of children’s services for Blue River Services, said the extended grant is “big news” for students and families.

“I read recently that a major reason for wanting to cut this funding from the federal budget was because there is no evidence that the program has been effective,” she said. “But nationwide, 21st CCLC programs have been extremely effective and critical by providing quality extended-day learning and after-school programming for 1.6 million children annually.”

Programming is educationally based and designed to increase the students’ chances for success while in school and throughout life, she said.

“In my opinion, through 21st CCLC programming, America is getting way more bang for their buck than they realize,” Baylor said.

Heather Richard, after-school program manager, said a mental health component of the grant is a new and unique aspect of after-school programming.

Blue River Services will partner with Associates in Counseling and Psychotherapy to provide easy access to needed therapy and counseling when student problems or family concerns may be hindering student learning.

“Through this counseling and therapy programing, we will be able to provide a new facet of support services to students and families in the school setting,” Richard said. “We also will use this opportunity to look for ways to expand upon this much-needed service in the near future.”

Drug and alcohol abuse in the nation, especially rural areas, combined with child abuse and neglect and poverty make teaching and learning difficult for children who hurt physically or mentally, are hungry, lack proper clothing or live in unsafe environments, Baylor said.

Low-income parents often are overwhelmed without the means to cope effectively, and those feelings often get passed along to their children in the form of insufficient nurturing, negativity and a general failure to focus on their children’s needs, she said.

“I cannot tell you specifically how other after-school programs across the country measure up, but I can tell you for sure what the funding provided to BRS Inc. accomplishes for the 450 students and their families that we serve,” she said.

Besides the vast array of programming, Blue River Services partners with local community action agencies to effectively make a positive impact on those struggling with alcohol and other drug abuse issues involving youth, she said.

“Our after-school programming is perhaps the only source of supplemental enrichment in literacy and math, nutrition education, technology and extracurricular activities that many students may have,” she said.

“We work to connect students and families with community supports to ensure we offer an effective and affordable way to help children and families overcome obstacles,” she said. “We level the playing field by ensuring that 21st CCLC students are afforded the same opportunities more affluent children have. Essentially, we are conquering a wealth of social issues one school at a time.”

Blue River Services also provides after-school programming at North Harrison Middle School, Eastern High School and Medora High School.

The elementary programs focus on improving student achievement in reading and math, middle school programs concentrate on science, technology, engineering and math and high school programs work to enhance college and career readiness, Baylor said.

This is the fourth year for Medora’s Reach for a Star after-school program, which is free for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It runs from 3 to 6 p.m. every school day.

They receive snacks for the first half-hour before concentrating on homework for an hour. The rest of the time is spent participating in club activities and special events. There also are family night events and service learning projects.

With 55 students involved in that program, school officials wanted to come up with an opportunity for high-schoolers focusing on improving test scores and getting them ready for college and a career.

The DELTA Club came about this school year after Medora received a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. It runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and is offered to freshmen through seniors. DELTA stands for determination, excellence, leadership, talent and achievement.

The club, which has 14 students enrolled, provides homework assistance, Advanced Placement college courses, more than 75 electives, credit recovery, life skills, study skills, field trips, guest speakers and postsecondary preparation.

Medora has funding for the DELTA Club for the next three school years.

Learn more

For information, search for “Medora’s Reach for a Star Afterschool Program” or “Medora High School DELTA Club” on Facebook or call 812-966-2201.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.