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MARION CENTER: AmeriCorp volunteers affect lives of students

by on December 10, 2013 10:49 AM

MARION CENTER — Two AmeriCorp Volunteer Program workers told Marion Center Area school directors Monday they’re tutoring students before and after school, helping them learn study skills and involving the students’ parents more in the students’ academic success.

Lisa Shirley, of Indiana, and Tia Neal, of Punxsutawney, have been working with the district’s high school and elementary students since the start of the school year through the federally funded program that engages adults in intensive public service at schools, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups.

Shirley and Neal said they work one-on-one with the students, from pre-kindergarten youngsters to seniors, starting while the students are eating breakfast after they arrive in the morning and continuing through after-school tutoring sessions until 5:30 p.m.

The two AmeriCorps volunteers also co-teach, help students complete homework assignments and prepare for tests. When needed, they also teach some students organization and study skills, and they stay in contact with students’ parents and suggest ways the parents can help with homework and studying.

Neal told the directors a few of the students she is helping have improved in some classes by one full letter grade or more compared to the grade they received at the end of the last school year.

About 800,000 people have served nationally as AmeriCorps volunteers since the program was established in 1994. Through their service the volunteers learn valuable work skills and earn money for education.

Charles Adamchik, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, briefed the directors on the district’s steps to provide parents with resource materials so they can assist in their children’s education.

Adamchik said the materials include books and guides ranging from helping students to read better to completing homework assignments to dealing with personal and social problems.

The material may be signed out of a lending library at Rayne Elementary School and some of the material is available under “Resources” on the district’s website.

“We’re trying to make the resources more accessible,” Adamchik said.

Bonnie Slater, the district’s food service director, told the school board she and her staff are responding to a challenge from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who is urging school districts to increase the number of students participating in school breakfast programs.

Slater said steps are being taken to make optional breakfasts more convenient and attractive to students when they arrive at school. She said studies have shown that students who start the day with breakfast do better academically, are absent less often and visit a school nurse less frequently.

Members of the high school’s girls’ cross country team presented the board and administrators with the Heritage Conference championship plaque the runners won in October. Marion Center Area has won the girls’ cross country championship 13 times out of 14 years.

District Superintendent Dr. Frank Garritano congratulated the team members not only on their athletic accomplishments but on their academic achievements as well.

In other action the directors:

• Added Jody Crooks, Tricia Gatskie, Stacie Saxfield and Christina Fabri to the elementary volunteer list and approved Lea Donahue as a volunteer swim coach.

• Added Alexis Petrosky, Sherri Smith and Carol Vivre to the professional substitute list.

• Hired Becca Shaffer as a long-term substitute special-education teacher at a salary of $101.10 per day.

• Recognized the Book Club as a student organization with Ashleigh Henning as sponsor, and approved the club’s constitution.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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