Saturday Academy lends 40 eager pupils a helping hand


April 05, 2000|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ON SATURDAY mornings, while most kids are sleeping late or watching cartoons, 40 eager pupils at Running Brook Elementary School hit the books at the Helping Hands Saturday Academy held at the school.

Sponsored by the Helping Hands Enrichment and Leadership Foundation, the program focuses on reading and writing skills, in a small group setting, for pupils who need additional academic support. The Saturday Academy runs for 2 1/2 hours every Saturday for 12 weeks.

Maureen Gomez, a fourth-grade teacher at Running Brook, is a staff member of the Saturday Academy. She says the program makes a difference in pupils' performance during the school week.

"I see a boost in their skill levels," she said. "I can also see a boost in their confidence and a willingness to participate in class."

Though the program doesn't begin until 9: 30 a.m., Running Brook Elementary School Assistant Principal Jason McCoy typically opens the doors by 9 a.m. for the children who come early to use the computers and other resources in the school's media center.

The morning starts with an opening ceremony in which children share their successes of the week.

"The students might announce that they got an `A' on a test or that they read five books that week," McCoy said.

Each week, the kids finish the opening ceremony by reciting the Helping Hands Rap to a tune written by Running Brook music teacher Eddie Myers, "Helping Hands Rap":

Knowledge is power.

I know what I know.

The more you learn, the further you go.

When you get an education, you will be taking a stand

Because knowledge is power, grab it while you can.

Because knowledge is power, grab it while you can.

After the opening, pupils break up according to grade level and meet with teachers, instructional assistants and volunteers in classrooms.

The Saturday Academy curriculum is tied to the lessons that pupils study during the school week.

When the program began at Running Brook in January, Gomez asked pupils to make a chart of the types of materials they wanted to be able to read and understand. They listed books without pictures, chapter books and comic books among others.

On Saturday, fourth-graders Victor Tran, Warren Felton, Patrice Robinson and Elmer Avila met with Gomez to read a chapter book and make cinnamon rolls. The children have learned to follow recipes and cook something different each week.

Since participating in the Saturday Academy, Victor and Warren have moved up to more challenging reading or writing groups in their classes. Other pupils in the program have enjoyed similar success.

Pupils are chosen for participation in the Saturday Academy by teachers and staff members at the school. Parents pay a $5 registration fee for the session. Tuition for the program is funded by grants from the Rouse Company Foundation and the Ryland Group.

Helping Hands Enrichment and Leadership Foundation was founded in 1987 by parents and staff members at Jeffers Hill Elementary. Fredrika Hill, former principal at Jeffers Hill, is co-founder of the group and president of its board of directors.

Hill said the foundation served 372 pupils last year through its Saturday programs -- offered at Jeffers Hill, Running Brook and Laurel Woods elementary schools -- and a summer camp program.

Information: 410-715-3053.

The gift of life

Nearly 100 students, staff members and parents at Atholton High School donated blood in a drive sponsored by the Atholton Student Government Association on March 13.

"I was so proud of those kids. They did a great job," said PTSA President Joan Lancos.

Donors had to be 17 years old to participate, so most of the donors were juniors or seniors.

For many, this was the first time they had donated blood and "probably the first time they were stuck with a needle without Mom or Dad holding their hand," Lancos said.

Staff member Donna Elshafei helped the students coordinate the event, which resulted in 70 pints of blood for the American Red Cross.

Parent volunteers Mary Redmond, Denise Saks, Judy Olson, Emma Ostendorp, Kathy Mattos and Lancos registered the donors.

SGA members Amanda Ramsey, Ashley Saks, Pratchi Patel, Erin Horn and Talya Frelick made sure everyone had snacks and drinks.

Information about donating blood: 800-448-3256.

Meet the candidates

Most west Columbia village associations will offer opportunities to meet candidates in the village board and Columbia Council elections that are scheduled for April 15.

Wilde Lake will hold a candidates night at 7 p.m. Mondayat Slayton House.

Town Center will hold a candidates night at 7: 30 p.m. Monday in the Vantage House auditorium.

Harper's Choice candidates will be available at 7: 30 p.m. Tuesday at Kahler Hall.

Dorsey's Search Village Association will hold a candidates forum from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 12 at Linden Hall.

The River Hill Village Association -- which has two incumbents running for the three open seats on the village board -- is not planning to hold a forum.

Plan to attend the candidates forum in your village, and educate yourself on the issues affecting Columbia's future.

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