School doesn’t end at bell

By Rasmieyh Abdelnabi

School doesn’t end at 3 p.m. for Andria Ogilvie.

The 14-year-old eighth grader attends the Spartan Reach after-school program at Sycamore Middle School five days a week.

After snacking with friends and finishing homework, she paints or draws on the computer, or takes a trip to the gymnasium.

She likes staying after school, but wishes better snacks were offered.

“The snacks are too healthy,” she said quite seriously.

Besides the food, Andria does not see the extra couple of hours at school as a big deal. She has teachers and teacher’s assistants who help her with homework, which sometimes takes a couple of hours to complete.

She is one of 70 students who take part in the Spartan Reach program.

The program began six years ago through a state grant called the Teen REACH after-school grant. Along with the $147,000 grant, parents are asked to pay $50 a year for each child they enroll in the program. The program employs three teachers and eight assistants on a budget that decreased $3,000 this year.

“Every year we sweat [the budget],” said Noel Smith, an adviser to the program.

This year’s budget cut is the first in six years, but since the budget didn’t adjust for inflation the five years prior, it has been more difficult each year to satisfy their needs.

The program deals with real-life issues like critical decision-making, alcohol and tobacco abuse, nutrition, careers, interpersonal skills, anger management and volunteering.

Tony Stahl, the Spartan Reach coordinator, said they maintain a ratio of 5 students per adult. The design was organized to give students one-on-one help when they need it, she explained.

Through that one-on-one help, students sometimes learn a decidedly different sort of curriculum.

Andria’s fellow schoolmate, Latrae Feaster, 13, hopes to be a teacher one day. She said she enjoys helping the younger students with homework.

Latrae’s mother, Tracie Davis, said she likes the structure of the program and the exposure her kids get to real-life situations that standard curriculums rarely touch. Her son, 11 year-old John Davis, is also in the program.

The mother of three said she appreciates her children are taught solutions to common problems, such as changing a tire and jump-starting a car. The kids were quite excited to report what they did that day to their mom.

Lisa Wilkinson, a seventh-grade teacher at Sycamore Middle School, said she values the program because some students just need extra help. She never hesitates to tell parents about it.

For more information call Tony Stahl at 815-899-8123.