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After-school programs help in learning

February 16, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

CALEXICOñThe word is out — after-school programs work. A news release posted on the California Department of Education's Web site this week lists William J. Moreno Junior High School in Calexico as one of a number of schools in California where after-school programs are making a positive difference in students' grades and attitudes.

According to the press release, students who participate in after-school programs are found to have improved results on standardized math, reading and language arts tests.

Some 80 percent of children enrolled in such classes statewide were reported as "liking" school more because of spending time in after-school programs. These children were more likely to envision graduating from high school and going onto college, according to the Web site.

Bethany LaDuke, after-school program coordinator at William Moreno Junior High, said Tuesday the 21st Century Community Learning Center program at her school has grown from humble beginnings three years ago, to a program that now has upward of 200 students participating each semester.

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The program also encompasses children from elementary schools that feed into William Moreno, including Mains, Kennedy and Blanche Charles schools.

De Anza Junior High School in Calexico also has an after-school program that caters to students from elementary schools in its area.

In teacher Gabriela Guttierez's math academic tutoring class, seventh-grader Joseph Claverie was clear on the reason he'd elected to take on more math work.

"Pizza. They promised us pizza," he said, looking up from his class work and grinning.

When pushed, the 12-year-old conceded that while the free pizza certainly was a consideration, he had really based his decision to come to the extra classes because it would mean "better SAT scores."

LaDuke confirmed students who take after-school classes indeed get better grades.

"When I compared the two groups … the group that was not in the after-school program started with grades at a certain level and then went down as the year progressed. The kids in the program had an increase in grades," she said.

Tutoring and homework units may be a core part of the program, but students can chose from classes as far apart in appeal as wrestling and Hawaiian dance. And if a student has an interest in cake-decorating, well, that's on the menu, too.

A little known aspect of the after-school program is that it is not only for students.

There are programs for parents and non-parents as well.

LaDuke says the school is offering classes in Tae-Bo, English and parenting skills, and there is child care available for parents participating in classes.

For further information on classes, call LaDuke at 768-3888, ext. 4595.

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or dingo87@earthlink.net

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