Friday, July 26, 2013

BRIDGE THE SUMMER GAP: Video aids preschool, early elementary children with reading skills

Looking for something to do with your preschool or early elementary age child? Try this video, created by SchoolMyKid, which aims to aid children with their beginning reading skills.

The video uses music and visuals that help children see and hear about the summer season. For more, click here to go to the SchoolMyKid Web site.

Enjoy ... 

Monday, July 22, 2013

FUNDRAISER SET: Girls hold dinner to earn money for trip to Escanaba

The Taylor Minor Girls All Stars -- who obviously have plenty of players who attend school in the Taylor School District -- will be having a Spaghetti Dinner Tuesday at the 26m Union building on Beech Daly (across from the armory) at 4:30-8:30 p.m. 

Donation suggestions is $8 per person, 2 for $15 or $5 each for a family of 4 or more. They will also have a bake sale, basket auction and 50/50.

They have six days to raise money for the trip to Escanaba for travel expense, food and lodging. 

A good family night out. 

Everyone's invited.

KENNEDY ACTION CENTER: Serving students and families since 2009

Site Manager Alyssa Tumolo (middle) with two of her students during graduation.

An underrated offering in the Taylor School District is the Kennedy Action Center at John F. Kennedy High School, a program that has been helping 50 high school students with after-school and summer activities annually since 2009.

The program, which is offered thanks to the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, focuses on academic enrichment, family involvement, recreational and life skills. This spring, three members of the Kennedy Action Center, Khari Walker, Paris Bowens and Chris Freeman, were honored for their efforts in the program during the Second Youth Believe and Achieve Awards ceremony, held at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

Alyssa Tumolo, the site manager for the action center, has been working with the program since its inception. A graduate of Ferris State University with a degree in criminal justice, focusing on at-risk youth, she started her career in the field working in an after-school program in Grand Rapids in 2008.

Kennedy Action Center students on a field trip to the Midway Golf Fun Center.
“I began working with the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency when they were awarded a grant in 2009 (to begin the JFK program) and have been the site manager since that time,” Tumolo said. “During our first year, our challenges were mainly building a partnership with the school, the district, the families and the high school staff. That happened over time.

“I now feel that we have a solid partnership within the school and with the families involved in the program.”

But the challenges don’t stop there, especially when a program is connected directly to students.

“It’s a daily challenge to keep up with the changing interests of the students,” she admitted. “What may interest them one week may not interest them the next. We are competing against a lot of different things in their lives, but luckily we are a priority for most of them, and we are grateful for that.”

So what specifically does the Kennedy Action Center do to keep students interested in academics and self-improvement? According to Tumolo, while school is in session, the group offers homework and tutoring assistance along with its daily activities. In the summer months when school is not in session, Tumolo says the agenda offers disguised learning activities that introduce students to as many experiences as possible.

Kennedy Action Center students participate in a cooking activity.
“Summer is a great time because we can take a field trip each week – during the school year, you aren’t going to get field trips that often,” she said. “This summer, we are going to Rolling Hills Water Park, the Teddy Bear Co. in Chelsea for a factory tour, horseback riding, learning to kayak at Oakwoods Metro Park, taking a Segway tour through Hines Park, going to see a live production of Beauty and the Beast and taking a ride on the Detroit Princess.”

And the good part of those types of trips is that it may be the first time the student has been exposed to that area or subject matter. That type of exposure, especially during the summer vacation months, can leave a lasting impression on the student.

The Kennedy Action Center staff consists of two group leaders, two tutors and a teacher. Two of the staff, Sarah Pascua and Dolores Hidalgo, are employed at the high school during the day, so they factor into the equation as a “important bridge” between in-school and after-school activities, according to Tumolo. During the school year, the focus remains heavy on academics, with homework help and tutoring constantly available. Each student is given a progress report in the after-school program and required to participate in the homework portion of the day.

The program also takes homework to the next level – providing opportunities for the students to peer tutor and attend tutoring provided by KHS. Accoridng to Tumolo, no one tutoring method fits all, so the main objective is to be flexible and deal with students however it works best.

Since family is a big part of the overall equation, the program runs an open door policy with all parents. They are always welcome to visit and check out the activities, in addition to regularly scheduled parent events, conferences, orientations, etc.

These two students participated in the Kennedy Action Center for four years.
Since physical fitness and good nutrition have been reemphasized by many public school districts, including Taylor, Tumolo admits that the action center strives to provide at least one physical fitness activity on a daily basis. It isn’t mandatory, but she says that most students take advantage of the time to get up and move around because they are tired of sitting all day. And the program keeps it interesting – past offerings have included Zumba, hip-hop dance, basketball, outdoor sports, karate, strength training and even lifeguard training.

“Good food is provided each day, thanks to the Children’s Resource Network Center, which offers hot meals during the school year,” Tumolo said. In the summer months, the school district provides snacks and lunch. “Nutrition is also a big part of our scheduled activities, like weekly cooking programs.”

Life skills issues vary from year to year. They focus on self respect and respect for others, effective communication, handling stress, resume building, healthy relationships, media literacy, online safety, finances, college readiness and emotional management, just to name a few, according to Tumolo.

“Those classes are offered to everyone, whether its large lecture style, smaller groups, or a mixture of lecture and hands-on activities,” she said.

There is no cost to enroll in the Kennedy Action Center, even for the field trips. To register, students or parents can pick up a registration form at school orientation, conferences or in the main office of the high school. The program offers ongoing registration throughout the year, until 50 spots are filled. Once all the spots are filled, those registering afterward are put on a waiting list. 

For more on the program, call Tumolo at (office) (734) 955-6752 Ext. 226; (work cell) (734) 239-4866; or emal her at