By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
— Kokomo-Center Schools announced Monday it would use a $750,000 grant to open five after-school community centers focused on math and science education.
The district received a highly competitive 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant.
The federally-funded grant program supports schools that want to provide places for their students, especially impoverished ones, to go after school to receive academic enrichment, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
“This grant truly is for the kids,” said Dave Barnes, director of communications for the district.
District officials envision places where elementary school students and their parents can go after school to get extra help with homework and participate in hands-on activities related to math and science.
“This is not a day camp; it’s not baby sitting,” said Dawn McGrath, director of programs for the district. “This is an academic experience.”
A family advocate will be on hand to offer classes for parents. A special education teacher will be available to help students with disabilities. And a robotics coach will involve groups of elementary school students in the Lego League robotics competitions, something that’s not available to them now, officials said.
“This is huge,” McGrath said. “There’s only so much the schools can do during the day.”
Initially, the district intends to serve at least 100 elementary school students from across the city on a regular basis, McGrath said. If the effort is successful, the district will expand the program.
Officials said they have no doubt the program will be successful, especially when 15 local organizations and businesses are already on board to help.
The city of Kokomo has agreed to help with public transportation.
Indiana University Kokomo will host parent workshops and field trips. Purdue University College of Technology Kokomo has offered up college students to serve as mentors and staff members to help with engineering activities.
The Kokomo Chapter of the Indiana Black Expo will support the center in Kokomo’s northwest neighborhood and help write grants to secure other funding sources.
Kokomo Urban Outreach and the Neighborhood Community Churches United volunteered to promote and market the after-school centers in the neighborhoods and churches they serve.
AndyMark Inc. is offering to provide hardware for students to build robotics and staff for robotics education programs and events.
The Kokomo Housing Authority will offer its Homework Club teacher for about 10 hours a week and use of its Garden Square Community Room and computer lab.
The list goes on and on.
“It was amazing all the services they were willing to provide in-kind,” said Assistant Superintendent Pennye Siefert. “That makes it a community program.”
Their willingness to step up and help out may have been the reason the district received the grant.
McGrath said the support of all of these community organizations and businesses shows that the program is sustainable and more likely to succeed.
“This is about community investments,” she said. “They were essential. Is there a stronger word than that?”
Siefert said the partners were probably so eager to jump on board because the community centers fulfill some of the goals they’ve had, too.
But before, these organizations didn’t have the funding or the resources to take on such an endeavor.
Deb Cook, executive director for the Kokomo Housing Authority, said that’s true.
She’s always looking for ways to help her residents in Dunbar Court and Garden Square apartments get extra education and training to help them become self-sufficient.
“This will bring in extra resources,” she said.
They have two teachers for their Homework Club. But the services they can provide with two people is limited.
“This is huge for us, for our children,” she said. “This will really enhance what they’re learning in science and math.”