August 25, 2008

After-School Program Shown Effective

By Bob Otto

YUCAIPA - There's very little that parents can find "free" in the way of educational programs and tutoring for their children.

But at Yucaipa and Dunlap elementary schools there's an after- school program making a positive impact on elementary-age children. And it's free.

For three years THINK Together, a nonprofit organization, has provided after-school programs for the two elementary schools. THINK stands for Teaching, Helping, Inspiring, Nurturing Kids Together.

All four of those elements seem to be working at Yucaipa Elementary, according to THINK Together Site Coordinator Stacy Olney.

"THINK has given kids greater confidence and a desire to go to school," said Olney. "They say they like going to school and that their favorite part of the day is after school."

And that appeared evident Thursday. Three classrooms were filled with children reading books, making art projects, working on homework, and honing their math skills.

Sixth-grader Iris Perez, 11, says that after school is fun and filled with lots of helpful activities.

"I get a lot of help with homework," Iris said. "My hardest (subject) is math. They show me the right way to learn rules and (solve) problems."

Independent evaluations done by the firm Hoffman, Clarke and Associates show high levels of improvement in academic results and parent and teacher satisfaction because of the THINK program. In most cases, improvement is better than 60 percent in math and reading.

Teacher surveys show that 73 percent of their students improved in homework completion, while 71 percent improved in overall academic performance.

In his second year as principal of Dunlap Elementary, Frank Tucci says that THINK Together has worked wonders at Dunlap.

"THINK enriches the learning experience," said Tucci. "They support what we do during the day. They are an extension of us. Time is the variable in education and learning is the constant. Spending more time in a purposeful (learning environment) is the best place for these kids after school. It's a great program. We are fortunate to have them here. I love it."

THINK Together starts when the regular school day ends. And children remain with THINK program leaders until 6:05 p.m. Along with homework help and studying math, English and science, children engage in art projects, along with physical education and recreational activities.

And they learn social and interactive skills. "We establish team- building rules and positive group dynamics," said Olney. On Thursday, children worked together in small groups to think up and select names for their different groups they belonged to, such as Cheetahs, Bobcats, Bulls, and Pumas.

And they also designed, drew, and colored group shields, such as Rattlesnakes in a second- and third-grade classroom.

Children also receive rewards for good behavior. "The kids are very excited because we've added new things like raffles," said Martha Higuera, a project leader. "They earn tickets (play money) if they work quietly and politely. At the end of the month they can buy things like crayons, pencils, paper, and toys."

"This is a safe place for them to learn after school," said Olney. "And parents don't have to pay, but they must commit to attendance (until 6:05 p.m.) except for emergencies."

To learn more about THINK Together visit At Dunlap Elementary, contact site coordinator Cindy Walton at (909) 380-2147. At Yucaipa Elementary, call Stacy Olney at (909) 380- 2455.

(c) 2008 The Sun, San Bernardino, Calif.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.