To The Extreme: After-school program enriches education for Middle School students, but it’s hardly boring stuff

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Dec 6, 2007 - The after-school program for Sulphur Springs students continues to grow and flourish, but there’s still room for more.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Sulphur Springs Middle School students Joshua Gonzalez and Ariana Brabo show the jewelry they made in the jewelry-making class, and students Taylor Hohenberger and Erica Hawthorne (far right) show them cookies hot out of the oven they made during their baking class. The jewelry and more than 30 dozen cookies are being donated to Lake Country CASA. The cookies will be among many others at the annual CASA Cookie Walk, which will be held Friday from 8 a.m. to noon in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist Church.

The latest addition, the Extreme Program at Sulphur Springs Middle School, is an extension of the after-school enrichment program at Douglas Intermediate School.

The program is funded through a four-year 21st Century Grant, which can be extended for up to two additional years. It is designed to provide educationally enriching activities through fun activities, as well as service learning projects. It also offers a positive atmosphere and place for students to be after school instead of at home alone or being out and about getting into trouble. 

�We try to do a lot of fun stuff, make if fun for the kids but still help them learn,� said Marsha Blount, one of those who helps out with the program. "We also do service learning projects. We try to do things middle school kids like."

The program offers nine-week classes with various activities offered each time. Students visit two stations a day, with a snack offered from 3:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. Homework help is offered at the school from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, as well as from 7:15 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.

LaToya Wright teaches speed stacking, which improves eye-hand coordination and is an exercise designed to improve students' science and math testing scores. The students in classes after school play a lot of games designed to enhance other skills while still being fun.

In the spring, they hope to be able to have domino classes, which is great for math skills. They would not only learn the fundamentals of the game, but ultimately compete in a tournament by the end of the class.

Blount just finished teaching a jewelry-making class. The students made jewelry for other middle school-aged students, then donated all of the items they made to Lake Country Court  Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), who help provide items to children during emergency home removals. Jewelry is hardly a luxury children assisted by CASA are afforded. This counted as one of the students’ service learning projects.

This week, the students started their second service learning project and another class. They will spend the next nine weeks learning to cook. They started out making cookies, which they will be donating to the annual CASA Cookie Walk, which begins at 8 a.m. and continues until noon Friday in the Fellowship Hall of First United Methodist Church. They have been baking and storing up cookies all week for the effort, their second service learning project. Before the nine weeks is complete, they should have advanced to cooking an entire meal.

They also offer activities in addition to the classes. For instance a dance class, taught by the Boys & Girls Club instructor, performed a recital Tuesday night in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club performance. On Wednesdays, boys basketball is offered. Zach Barney works with the boys.

Currently, about 45 students attend the Extreme after-school program, two classes of seventh and eighth graders and four classes of sixth graders, a number of which have come up through the Boys & Girls Club and Douglas programs, according to Blount. The program can accommodate up to 102 children, and school staff said they’d like to average about 80 students participating daily.

The program is overseen by Holly Folmar, with Connie Johnson as assistant coordinator. The program is offered for all Sulphur Springs Middle School students at no charge, and the district provides bus transportation home for students living within the city limits.

The program is generally over no later than 6:15 p.m. weekdays.  Parents and students interested in learning more about the program can call the program administrators at 903-885-2158 or 903-885-7741, ask at the school office, or send a note to the office, asking that an application be sent home with their students.

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