THE SCENE OF THE STORIES — The center is located at 56 East Main St., in a classroom the students have largely decorated themselves. Photos by Lizz Schumer.
SPRINGVILLE — An exchange student from Thailand learned English, by helping younger kids with their literacy skills. A little boy started the summer with four weeks of silence and finished it reading his own work aloud. Students sang to nursing home residents, learned to make pizza in a real restaurant and wrote books, with high school and college illustrators. All of that and more are the fruits of the Country Life Programs Success Center, which launched this summer, in Springville.
Starting Friday, Sept. 6, owners Jeannine Klock and Nina Benz will open their doors to another batch of students, in the hopes of making even more educational magic.
The CLPSC began as Klock’s brainchild in 2003, when she decided to renovate the former Assembly of God Church, located at 79 Smith St. in Springville, as a home and future tutoring center.
Since that center needed too much work to open in time for the summer season, Klock and Benz decided to set up shop at the Springville Center for the Arts for the month of July, instead.
“Seth [Wochensky] was so wonderful,” Klock said. “He really opened his arms to us, in our time of need and helped us get off the ground.”
READ ME A STORY — The Country Life Programs Success Center founder Jeannine Klock (pictured, left) and her “right-hand man” Nina Benz are pictured, ready to read.
At the beginning of August, the center moved in to 56 East Main St.
The next hurdle the organizers had to overcome was funding, according to Klock.
“We had 20 children coming, many two - three times a week,” Klock explained. “But only three of those families were able to pay the full rate. ”
Through a combination of sponsors, donations and the “kindness of community members,” the CLPSC was able to scrabble together the money to allow those children to attend, many of whom came from lower-income backgrounds.
Klock devised a business plan for the CLPSC, and devised a holistic learning center that combines music, the Project Child learning delivery model, speech therapy techniques and higher-level thinking to help students improve their literacy, regardless of what skills they already possess.
“It is a structured program,” Klock explained. “We have fun, but we do learn. The students go from station to station, in differentiated instrictuion. We are constantly sharpening the structure. The students are laerning from each other, which takse some scaffolding, becayuse they’re not used to doing it [in school]. But they did really well.”
So well, Benz added, that the students often did not want to leave, at the end of the day.
“We had one girl who was going camping and didn’t want to go,” she added, laughing. “We’d have to pull kids away from the piano or the stage, when their parents arrived.”
STOCKED TO LEARN — Some of the center’s stations are pictured, above, equipped with a wide range of learning tools, for the students to utilize.
In order to tailor the program to each child, the CLPSC offers a free reading assessmnet, when the students enroll, as well as continuous updates to a folder that contains each child’s charted reading levels and areas in need of improvement.
The individualized instruction model the center utilizes allows each student to work at his or her own pace, with equally individual instruction.
“The children’s folders show, at any given time, how they’re doing. A volunteer can come in and pull the folder and see what each student needs to work on.”
Klock added that, when the program began, more than half of the participants were reading at two or three reading levels below the grade they would enter, in the fall.
“From past experience [as a teacher], I know that, whenever you’re in a poverty area, the students’ reading levels tend to be lower,” she explained. “Resources might be a factor, with both parents’ working and not being able to afford to supplement [school-hour instruction]. It’s the same all over the country, not just in Springville.”
Both teachers said that the progress the children have made, over the summer, is “amazing.
“These students do great things. They write wonderful things,” Benz said. “The students will be [windmilling their arms] trying to tell their story because they’re just so excited about what they’re creating, they can’t get it out fast enough.”
READ ME A STORY — Several students at the CLPSC read to each other, during the summer program. Photo submitted by Jeannine Klock.
Through what the CLPSC is calling the Young Authors Program, the students wrote children’s books, over the course of the summer, which will be illustrated by local high school and college volunteers, then printed at Anything Printed of Springville and sold locally.
“Our volunteers are awesome,” Benz said. “One of our [S-GI football] players just lit up when we asked if he wanted to be an illustrator. The students and illustrators work really well together. It’s such a joy to watch.”
Those illustrators include Dakota Nesselbush, Malinda Rosenswie, Morgan DiGangi, Makenzie Fintak, Jake and Benn Smith and Caroline Francisco.
In addition to the illustrators, the center had a number of high school volunteers help out, this summer, who Klock said made the program run like clockwork.
Those included Erin McNell, Nina Koelmeyer, Nutnicha “Frame” Chotchoei, Brittany Sullivan, Meghan Loop and Stacy Grisby.
“It’s amazing to watch it transpire,” Klock said, of the alchemy that happens when the volunteers work with the younger students, to get their stories out of their heads and onto the page.
“It’s such a nice partnership,” Benz added.
In addition to the partnership between the high school students and the younger kids, the pair said the community has “really embraced the kids.”
The CLPSC took field trips to Sheret Jewelers, My Best Friend’s Closet, Springville Homewear and Hardwear, LuluBelle’s, The Trading Post, Julie’s Pizzeria and Main Street Pizza, many of which had activities ready to go, to help the students with their learning.
“At Julie’s the owner asked the kids to tell them how many pepperoni went on a large pizza and the two closest got to go in the back and make the pizza for the rest of us,” Benz said. “It’s so nice to see these people, who aren’t even educators themselves, invested in the students, that way.”
The students also visited Fiddler’s Green nursing home, where they sang with the residents and got a chance to see how Klock’s therapy dogs do their jobs.
“How long do you think it’s been since some of the residents read a book to a child?” Klock asked. “The kids were asking what they could do in the future, when we left. It’s so great to see the kids getting involved in the community, even outside of our program.”
Benz and Klock said they have big plans for the fall session, but the funding issue has reared its head, again.
“Many of these children will not be able to return for the 2013 – 2014 school year, as their financial needs are so great,” Klock explained. “[Assistant teacher] Lisa Miskell and I spoke with individuals at the Child and Family Services Offices and are awaiting confirmation that our exceptional educational facility can honor the county day care vouchers. In the meantime, we continue to seek out assistance for those that need it.”
While she said Joe Emerling of Main Street Pizza is “really protective of us, as part of his community within a community,” Klock and Benz said they are always looking for donations and additional business sponsors.
“We want these students to be career and college-ready,” Klock said. “We know they’re all more than capable of reaching it.”
More information on how to register for the upcoming session can be found on the CLPSC’s Facebook page, or by calling 592-2045 or 560-5832.