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Asheville after-school program offering academics, enrichment



12/27/2011 - Asheville after-school program offering academics, enrichment
by Julie Ball - -Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- In one room of the Delta House Life Development center, a group of students is learning what vitamin C does for the body.

Inside another room, students are practicing a song with retired music teacher Angie Benton.

And downstairs, more students are learning to play different kinds of drums.

Each afternoon during the school year, Monday through Thursdays, the center fills up with middle and elementary school students taking part in LEAAP.

LEAAP, or Learning through Extended Academics and Arts Program, combines academic work and enrichment activities, said Shirley Whitesides, program director.

"Our program is an extension of the regular school day. We provide academics, enrichment and family involvement," Whitesides said.

Delta House has provided activities and after-school programs for children since 1983, but a $1.3 million, four-year grant has allowed the organization, working with community partners, to expand its reach.

LEAAP works with about 200 middle and elementary school students at six locations.

The program is offered for free to qualifying students in third through eighth grades, who have struggled with end-of-grade tests.

"We are targeting kids who live in poverty or go to low performing schools," Whitesides said.

Whitesides said the nonprofit also has been given permission to expand the program to other students who may be interested.

"We were told we can now open our program up to all the students and families in Asheville, and if they are not considered low income, we can charge a fee for them using a sliding scale," she said.

The program is also hoping to get donations to help pay for the healthy snacks provided each afternoon to students, she said.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center grant is federal money awarded by the state through a competitive process, Whitesides said.

LEAAP is in the second year of the grant.

Students get a healthy snack, bus transportation, homework help, academic programs as well as a variety of enrichment programs including arts and crafts, jewelry making, African drumming, chorus and movie making.

The students have access to computers and are learning social skills, Whitesides said. Another big push of the program is connecting with parents.

"We want to be able to help the parents so they will be able to help their own children, so we provide classes and services for them," Whitesides said.

Whitesides is a retired teacher and the wife of Asheville City school board member Al Whitesides.

She said the program employs certified teachers, who submit lesson plans. The program must monitor and report students' grades.

Students work on project-based learning, said Anthony R. Turner, sixth-grade math and science teacher at Asheville Middle School, who also works with students through the after-school program

"We just reinforce the common core curriculum, the standard course of study," Turner said. "This is my second year with the program, and I feel like the program has definitely been a success as far as getting the community involved."

Asheville Middle School Principal Mary Margaret Sullivan said she is starting to see greater confidence in students taking part in the program.

"Students are being exposed to a lot of things that they might not have the opportunity to experience," said David Miles, assistant principal at Asheville Middle who also serves as an on-site administrator for the after-school program.

Cassandra Ingram, who works for Asheville City Schools and also works as a site coordinator for the program, sa id a focus has been on getting parents involved.

"We had over 200 parents at our last function. What the program looks at is involving the community and the school together," she said.


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