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Scholarship Opportunities Stem from High-Five After School Program


High Five program participants assist with a fundraiser for the Humane Society.

Touching personal moments and intergenerational communication make the High Five After-School Program at Spooner Elementary School both meaningful and memorable for all participants. The program provides a variety of club activities -- cooking, crafts, drama, gardening, reading, homework help, and more -- for students in grades K-4. It begins immediately after school and ends at 5:00 p.m.

"The television beckons as an after-school sitter while many parents finish up shifts in their workplace," observes Karen Collins. "Our district wants to help parents with after-school care for their children. One of our goals is to provide a safe, stimulating learning environment where children can interact with caring adults and explore a variety of new opportunities that will allow them to enhance their life choices."

Collins was an AmeriCorps VISTA member who coordinated the High Five After-School Program when she joined the Spooner (Wisconsin) Area School District as a community education director. Among the "clubs" offered through the program are Science and Fun, Dramarama, Gymnastics, Kids in the Kitchen, Be A Leader, Crafty Kids, Animals in Art, Nature Nuts, Memory Keepers, Globe Trotters, and many others. The students and mentors have taken afternoon field trips to an Audubon sanctuary and enjoyed other opportunities to explore nature.

During its two years of operation, High Five has forged and strengthened the school's connections with families and community organizations. Some senior citizens have given more than 100 hours to the program. One community member leads Quilts for Kids, a club in which students create quilt squares with their own hands. This leader enlists support from other community members to sew the squares together and make beautiful quilts that the children choose to give away.

"This special club has given quilts to local families who have children living with terminal illnesses, others who have lost their homes to fire, and still other needy children in poverty-stricken countries," Collins shared. "High Five has reconnected us with a hometown pride that warms the hearts of all of us who work in and around our school."

High Five's biggest night of the week is Thursday's 4-H program, which the students have named "Cool Kids 4-H Club." Last year, the children joined in activities stemming from 4-H resource materials that focus on robotics, aerospace, and gardening. Third grade participants engaged in a service learning project called the Helping Hands Community Garden and worked with master gardeners and a local food pantry.

However, the greatest success of High Five may not come from 4-H but the "3 Rs." Several caring community volunteers meet with youngsters to improve their math and reading skills during tutoring sessions in the media center. The twice-a-week commitment from the volunteers has yielded great results. Teachers have reported increases in test scores and self-confidence among the students who participate in the tutoring, and many of the kids show a more positive attitude toward school.


A mentor reads to a student during a High Five club meeting.

"I witnessed one elderly gentleman sharing stories from his youth while his child finished up a snack. After such a refresher, the twosome started the tutoring-mentoring session on a positive note," Collins recalled. "Each volunteer seems to find special ways to break the ice with the children and reinforce study skills that encourage the students to believe in themselves. This enables the kids to continue to put in the effort it takes to succeed in subjects that have been a struggle."

The close working relationship between tutors and mentors, classroom teachers, the guidance counselor, tutor coordinator, and parents that has been established by High Five has fostered greater understanding among the groups and enabled the school to assist families in obtaining needed support.

"Working with our community organizations, volunteers, leaders, school personnel, and principal throughout our High Five After School Program these last two years has been one of the most rewarding jobs that I have ever done," added Collins. "I love how our school and community families have grown closer while making a sustainable difference in the lives of our children."

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