A program aimed at helping middle school students succeed is looking for a few more volunteers to serve as mentors.
Michaela Taylor, project manager with the Educational Council, updated the Groveport Madison Board of Education on the KIDSConnect program during the Nov. 17 board meeting.
"We are still looking for mentors," Taylor said, noting that adults need only commit to one hour twice a month to participate in group activities exploring relationship building, career exploration and asset development. "We’d love to be able to pair up every child with a mentor."
All mentors will be trained and background checked. Although the program began Nov. 18, Taylor said more mentors are still needed. To help, call Michaela Taylor at 247-5915.
The KIDSConnect program was founded in 1996 as the Rickenbacker Area Partnership by a broad-based collaborative of schools, governments, businesses and community organizations in southeastern Franklin County. In addition to the 55 students in sixth and seventh grades who participate at Groveport Madison’s North and South middle schools, KIDSConnect is also offered at Canal Winchester Middle School, Hamilton Township Local Middle School and Rosemore Middle School in Whitehall.
Taylor said students are recruited by district personnel who express concerns about the students needing academic intervention and/or social skill development.
"KIDSConnect works with students to overcome attitudes and behaviors that interfere with their success in the school and community," Taylor said. "Through a curriculum designed to strengthen social skills and activities that build connections with peers, school and family, KIDSConnect is able to provide students with the opportunity to develop the necessary assets needed to succeed in life."
In Groveport, after-school programming is held from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Taylor explained. It includes an hour of homework assistance or academic enrichment; one hour of service learning projects; team building for 30 minutes; completion of weekly reflective journals; and a snack.
Students also present community and family showcases on topics they have interested in, such as alcohol, drug and tobacco prevention, media awareness and nutrition and fitness.
"That also allows the students to develop their presentation skills," Taylor said.
Community service is also a big portion of the program. Taylor said Groveport Madison participants have already completed more than 230 hours of community service this school year, including participation in Make a Difference Day and service around the school building.
On Oct. 15, students celebrated Lights on Afterschool, a national day of awareness to highlight significant contributions that afterschool programs make on their communities – keeping kids safe and healthy, inspiring them to learn, and relieving working parents of worries about their children’s activities during the afternoon hours.
As part of the Oct. 25 Make a Difference Day, students picked up trash at Veterans’ Park; planted flowers; carved and donated pumpkins; and distributed fliers to local neighborhoods promoting the importance of voting and knowing the issues.
Before the 2008-09 school year is completed, students will contribute an additional 1,600 hours of community service, Taylor added.
KIDSConnect is made possible by the Ohio Department of Education as 21st Century Community Learning Centers; United Way of Central Ohio; Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services; the Groveport school district and Madison Township.
"Our cost for this is funded totally by 21st Century grants," commented Groveport Madison Treasurer Tony Swartz.
Taylor said the program is seeing positive results.
Following the 2007-08 program, studies showed that 76 percent of the participants showed social skills that improved by 35 percent; 82 percent of students who attended at least half the programming improved one letter grade in at least one core subject area; 63 percent of students who attended at least half the programming had increased school attendance; and 25 percent of students with prior disciplinary actions who were involved in the program for more than 18 weeks decreased their discipline infractions; and 51 percent of students incurred zero discipline infractions.
"We’re looking to see better results, although these are good," Taylor said.
Superintendent Scott McKenzie said he would like to see further data on the students who have participated in the program for two years to see if there is any improvement.
"Those are numbers we will have next June," Taylor promised.