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After Hours Learning
The school day has gotten a bit longer this year in Farmington and Collegeville ... but nobody is really complaining.

In fact, the students attending the After School Program at both rural sites are happy to be there. They get help with homework, are provided with a snack, have an opportunity to play, and enjoy spending a little more time with their peers.

A grant through the San Joaquin County Office of Education has allowed each school site to implement an after school program, which is open to all students, kindergarten through fifth grade, at the rural campuses at no charge.

"We started in November," Collegeville program coordinator Beverly Wilson said. "What's really cool is that out of 123 enrolled students, we have 105 in the after school program."

The huge level of participation is already paying dividends, with students getting homework help and feeling more confident in their schoolwork as a result. It also lessens the stress level for children when they get home, if a parent isn't available to help or perhaps doesn't understand the work. With the after school program, the homework is typically done before they leave.

"We split them up, we have kindergarten through second grade, then third to fifth graders," Wilson said of having teachers to oversee each group and work with them.

Educational enrichment and additional tutoring is a main focus, said Wilson, along with bringing in special programs such as science experiments and entertainment from time to time.

"We are in desperate need of volunteers," she added.

Anyone can volunteer to help out, and can contact Collegeville School at 941-2007 for more information. Whether you can read with a child, help with math homework or have a hobby you want to share as an enrichment activity, all assistance is welcome.

"We want to have science fun, we have music, we do 'drama-rama' on Wednesdays and we're also doing some videotaping so we can have an after school movie," Wilson explained.

Fridays are 'fun days' with no homework, with some additional crafts offered that day.

Older students on the rural campus are also being brought in as mentors for the younger students, working one on one in some cases.

The program meets Monday through Friday, right after school until 5 p.m.

"Our district was notified that there was a grant available," said Bob Amato, principal for both Collegeville and Farmington. "The students like it because they get their homework done, and it also leads to a healthier student body because they don't go home, sit and watch TV, they are taking part in activities, having more play time with their peers."

Farmington Elementary, with Maria Dusi as program coordinator, started its After School program on the first day of the school year and has also enjoyed a consistently high level of participation.

"The kids are getting a lot of help with homework that they sometimes couldn't get at home because of the language barrier," Dusi pointed out. "We have fun with dancing, they are now practicing a dance to do with Mr. Amato for the Farmington Follies (talent show) that is coming up.

"We'll also be doing a couple songs together and we just did a little presentation of Martin Luther King songs and ground hog songs, presented to the school board at the Jan. 18 meeting."

Dusi said she also has reading buddies at the school and likes to do special food activities on minimum days, such as this week's frosting of Valentine's Day cookies.

Community service is another aspect and learning how to be a good citizen is crucial.

"If anything, they will have manners," Dusi said with a chuckle, adding that she has already seen a change in the way the student body deals with each other and their teachers.

A lot of physical activity is also featured, from basketball to soccer, to work in the computer lab and library.

"We're making a difference," Dusi said.