Elementary schools offer free summer learning
HUNTINGTON -- Take a look around mentor Matt Hicks' classroom at Guyandotte Elementary School this summer, and you see learning in progress. There's a makeshift "Book Nook" -- in essence a camping tent with Christmas lights -- where a child is reading with a volunteer. There's a wooden, red-painted puppet theater waiting for its next big show. There's artwork and lists covering the walls.
It's all part of Energy Express, a summertime program offered at Guyandotte and Peyton elementary schools through July 25. It's a free program from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays, and it's open to students who have completed kindergarten through fifth grade. Focused on nutrition and literacy, the program includes breakfast and lunch daily with activities such as reading, artwork, drama and recreation. Leading the program are mentors through West Virginia University's Extension Service and AmeriCorps. Volunteers are part of the programs' success as well.
There are still openings in both programs for students who would like to join, said Earlene Anglin, coordinator for the program. There also is a need for volunteers -- both teens and adults.
"It's fun," said 7-year-old Krisha Patel, who is in the program at Guyandotte. "I like painting and arts and crafts. And I like reading, too."
Founded over 20 years ago and offered in about 80 sites nationally, Energy Express is an effort to "stop the summer slide," said Teresa Hatfield, a Culloden Elementary School teacher involved with the program, which has been offered in the past in Cabell County, but not in the last few years.
"We've found it not only stops the summer slide, but we see growth. Kids love it because of the format it's presented in and the big art," she said, referring to things like life-size self portraits they paint that are lining the hallways.
Each week is based on a theme. The first week, the kids focus on their own individuality, and the proceeding weeks focus on their families and homes, then their communities and then the world and how they can make it better. They'll be doing a community project and have a presentation for their families at the end of the program, Anglin said.
"What we are doing is so rewarding and so desperately needed," said Anglin, also a teacher.
Tanner Spurlock, an 11-year-old from Milton Middle School, said reading and spending time with others is pretty fun.
"This is my third time doing it," he said.
"You can see they love it. There's not a frown in sight," said mentor Morgan Henson, who like Hicks is studying education at Marshall University. "I love the aspect of nutrition and literacy, and how it keeps them from regressing in the summer. They get a different outlook on learning."
Volunteers Sue Bock and Robin Moses read to students on Friday, Bock to share her love of reading and Moses to get some real-life experience as she works toward a teaching degree.
"I think it's good if you like to read. I always have a book open," Bock said.
Lauren Bickerton is teen community coordinator for Energy Express in Cabell County and is looking for teens to volunteer. They can earn plenty of community service hours and have flexible scheduling, she said. For more information about volunteering, call her at 304-638-5998.
To register a child at Guyandotte Elementary and Peyton Elementary, contact Anglin at 304-617-3513.
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