Power Hour puts students in the know | NevadaAppeal.com

Power Hour puts students in the know

PATT QUINN-DAVIS, For the Appeal

Marisol Lopez, 6, studies a word puzzle during Power Hour at Empire Elementary Thursday afternoon.

The children busily shuffle papers at tables. One raises her hand, wanting to show her finished work. Three other girls lean toward each other, whispering and giggling, their hands covering their mouths.

It could be a scene in any well-managed classroom. But this class is after school.

During Power Hour, homework is the priority.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada runs the program at Empire Elementary School until 6 p.m. during the school year and from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. in summer.

While many students work at grade-specific tables in the cafeteria, others get one-on-one help in various classrooms from teachers.

If the students finish their homework before Power Hour is over, grade-level worksheets on a variety of topics are available. Then, after the hour and a snack, they go to other programs, many with assistance from local businesses.

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“After an hour of academics, the children are involved in lots of things,” said Diane McCoy, area director for the Boys & Girls Club. “There are Scouts activities, drama and choir.”

Sixteen community partnerships provide instruction, she said. Close to 400 Boys & Girls Club children have taken lessons at Silver State Gymnastics, and more than 100 received instruction at Pinkerton Dance Academy.

The children are either bused to the facilities or representatives from organizations like the Brewery Arts Center; the University of Nevada, Reno, Cooperative Extension; Boy and Girl Scouts or Northern Nevada Hispanic Services bring instructors and activities to Empire.

The children remaining at the school can choose from many activities, including arts and craft, board games, sports or a movie.

The program is administered through a 21st Century, three-year federal grant provided by the Carson City School District. This is the second year of the grant, McCoy said.

A similar program has been developed at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School. It will receive federal funds for five years, McCoy said. The grant also pays for staff and for teachers who provide tutoring.

“Working closely with the school district is not new for the club,” said Cathy Blankenship, executive director. “We have had a long history of providing educational enhancement activities that help club members attain their academic goals, and we appreciate the confidence the school district places in us by asking the club to lead the 21st Century sites.”

Keeping an average of 110 children occupied is primarily the job of Maria Wilson, site director for the Empire project. She gets help from seven staff people and volunteers from the Foster Grandparents Program, Carson High School’s Key Club and others.

Boys & Girls staffer Mandy Foster has worked with the Empire program for two years.

“I do it for the kids,” she said. “They are so neat.”

Foster said the experience has convinced her to pursue a career with children.

“There are some tough parts, when a kid doesn’t follow direction or gets angry,” Foster said. “That doesn’t matter, though. I just love working here.”

The Empire location has a particular need to serve the Hispanic community. Many Hispanic parents work two jobs and need the program to care for their children after school, Wilson said. Three of the staff members are bilingual, Wilson said, and parents feel comfortable knowing they can communicate with them.

“They feel safe with this program because they can talk to us. They know the program is well supervised.” Wilson said.

In addition, “Many of the parents can’t help their children with homework because they don’t speak English,” she said.

Empire Principal Pat Carpenter is a firm believer in the program. She cites a nationwide need for such programs to extend the school day with instruction, offer enrichment through the fine arts and other experiences, and support families.

Carpenter sees other benefits, like a field trip last summer to the Ponderosa Ranch near Incline Village. “We had children there who had never walked through a forest before, who had never had that experience.”

“The teachers and the parents are definitely seeing an improvement” in children who attend the program, Carpenter said. She said a consultant is putting together numbers to specifically show what effect the after-school model has on student achievement.