2007-02-01 / Front Page

New programs offer after-school learning excitement for island students

By Michaela Kennedy

Students Julia Hirsch and Travis Early try their theatrical skills in the after-school Improvisational Acting class taught by Lis Swain. Photo by Mary Hall Keen Students Julia Hirsch and Travis Early try their theatrical skills in the after-school Improvisational Acting class taught by Lis Swain. Photo by Mary Hall Keen Now in its third year, the afterschool enrichment programming at the Jamestown schools has experienced booming success. From foreign language to the Roger Williams Zoomobile, students at both Melrose and Lawn Avenue schools have a wide choice of fun offerings that expand with each series of sessions in the fall, winter, and spring.

During a visit to this winter session, the halls echoed with young voices involved in new crafts such as poetry, dancing, Scrabble, and herb blending.

Assistant Principal Mike Franco noted that "well over 100 kids" have signed up this January for the winter program at each school. "Karate is always big," he said. Over 40 students signed up, so they offer it twice a week, Franco added.

Walking by a group of students with their eyes on a big screen in the darkened cafeteria, Franco explained how the middle school children have group discussions about short films. "Pretty high level stuff for these young kids, eh?" he said, smiling.

Franco pointed out that interscholastic sports - basketball in the winter and track and field in the spring, for both boys and girls were high on the popularity list.

The post-class programs have grown through suggestions made by parents, teachers, and supporting neighbors. Principal Kathleen Almanzor said about the "amazingly neat offerings" of enrichment. "The Jamestown Education Fund and the people here have put a lot of work into making this happen," she said.

"Mary Keen was instrumental in helping us find money to run the programs," Almanzor said about the chairwoman of the JEF. Almanzor noted that the Rhode Island Foundation awarded the schools $1,000 this past year to help fund the effort as well.

Keen threw the compliment back to Almanzor, praising her coordination of the ongoing series. "We're trying to step in and fill a need," Keen said about the foundation. She wrote a grant proposal for a three-year enrichment series. "The best thing about the whole endowment is that it has made valuable programs available to everyone for free, emphasized Keen. "Everyone should be taking advantage of this," she added.

Almanzor also expressed gratitude to Sally Schott, chairwoman of the School Improvement Team at Melrose school. "She contacted Roger Williams, and put in a proposal to the Jamestown Education Foundation, which is sponsoring it (the Zoomobile)," she said.

At the Student Council meeting down the hall, more than 14 students gathered to design decorations for the upcoming after school social. "You make things happen," said Carla Aveledo about the Student Council. Other executive board members, mostly eighth graders, also stepped forward to explain how the club worked.

"Our purpose is to hold after school events," said Hayden Maclean, a seventh-grader and council treasurer. He noted that the council made enough money through fund-raising to buy a wolf costume for the school mascot.

Lili Flour, an enthusiastic club member, acknowledged the success of the council's ability to raise money and collect goods for the community. Flour added that the group organized a walk for breast cancer, and collected toys for children at a social. "Everyone had to bring a toy to enter," she said.

In the art room, a dozen girls, mostly fifth graders, filled the tables with pottery creations. Julia Montminy, one of the instructors of the ceramics class, commented that the number of sign-ups for pottery "always go over the limit." Trish Van Cleef, another instructor, noted that they minimize instruction, "and let them make their own creations."

Two ceramic lovers, Megan and Kaela, molded pinch pots by rolling balls of clay and thumbpinching them into shape. "I like to work with clay. It's fun to make things," Kaela said as she attached clay petals to the edges of her pot.

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