School district gets 1st installment of $800,000 grant | SierraSun.com
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School district gets 1st installment of $800,000 grant

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

The Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District received more than $300,000 for year one of a three-year federal grant to provide expanded learning opportunities to students outside of regular school hours.

The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center initiative. TTUSD was awarded one of the 176 grants nationwide, out of more than 2,000 applications. The federal grant was awarded to the district for three years, with a budget of $807,242. After each year, the project will be evaluated and renewed if successful.

“Federal grants are kind of a shot in the dark,” TTUSD Director of Community and Youth Development Laurie Martin said.

“But it was just one of those things. We’ve been talking about this stuff for years. The core piece is the collaborative we have in this community.”

The 21st Century Community Learning Center initiative in Tahoe-Truckee will set up after-school programs at Kings Beach and Truckee elementary schools for the first year. Martin said the next step will be to establish a program at Sierra Mountain Middle School as well. So far, the program has begun at Kings Beach Elementary, and planning for the Truckee program is still under way.

“Grants of this size are few and far between,” said TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma. “We feel very fortunate our efforts are rewarded in receiving this grant. We believe this grant will enable us to provide more resources towards youth development both during and after school hours.”

Although the lead agency in implementing the grant is the school district, the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe is the major partner, and is responsible for carrying out project objectives. The Boys and Girls Club will provide after-school and summer youth development activities including daily homework help and tutoring, sports and recreation, arts and crafts, drama, music and dance, leadership and service development, health and life skills education and drug abuse prevention.

“The initiative is something that made a lot of sense for us just as a community to apply for,” Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Dana Fraticelli said. “We were already in the position for us to do exactly what they wanted us to do. It was a perfect tie-in for the Boys and Girls Club because it’s an opportunity for us to be supported by a federal grant in what we want to do.”

The organization, which had already implemented a before- and after-school program for youth of all ages at the Kings Beach site, will be responsible for providing academic enrichment programs for the targeted youth as well as providing a range of activities and services.

The project is designed to serve approximately 500 students and 500 community members per year. The primary goal is to reduce the number of school dropouts among the district’s poor and otherwise disadvantaged students, Martin said. The program will address academic failure, illiteracy, English language deficiency, learning disabilities and cultural, economic, social and environmental barriers to learning and school success in this area.

In addition to the provision of after-school and summer youth development programs, the objectives include expanded learning opportunities for adults and children. Both the district and the Boys and Girls Club hope the project will help provide a range of family support services in a community-school environment.

“We liked the vision of the whole 21st Century idea,” Martin said. “It goes along with our school vision that says, ‘We open our doors and extend educational opportunities to our community.’ This is our vehicle to do that.”

Martin said the developmental approach will help the community to feel more welcome in the district’s schools.

“It’s a whole family-based approach,” Martin said.

Fraticelli, who authored most of the grant, said it was a fairly easy application because it was aligned with Boys and Girls Club values. The grant is bringing resources that are already out there together she said.

“It ties it all together under one project,” she said. “It really is giving Boys and Girls Club the ability to truly evaluate the effectiveness of our programs and to expand to Truckee.”

Different community service organizations will be partnering in the project to help encourage families to utilize available services. Partners include Sierra College, Sierra Family Services, Tahoe Women’s Services, Project MANA, Sierra Nevada Children Services, Placer County Office of Education Childcare Referral Services, Employment Development Department and Tahoe Forest Hospital.

“I think if we all work together we can make an impact, rather than if we’re off in our own little worlds,” Fraticelli said.

Fraticelli said that as the program is developed in Truckee, she hopes to work closely with Truckee-Donner Park and Recreation District in implementing the activities and recreation piece.

“Truckee has a very strong and successful parks and recreation application,” she said. “In Truckee, we will focus on after-school enrichment educational programs. Our intention is to partner with and make referrals for the park and recreation programs.”

The program is open to all children, but project directors will be working with school staff to incorporate some type of referral system.

“We’re working with teachers from the schools to identify children who have specific needs,” Fraticelli said. “We want to complement and reinforce whatever they’re doing in the classroom.”

The academic enrichment piece aims to do this by taking a more creative approach and using educational software where appropriate, she said.

“It needs to be fun, but it doesn’t mean they’re not learning,” she said.

All teachers in the after-school and summer program are certified and licensed.

The first learning center in the district has only been going for two weeks, but Fraticelli said they are already averaging about 75 children a day.

The project will be governed by a steering committee from the Tahoe-Truckee Children’s Collaborative. The steering committee will serve under the advisement and direction of two community oversight councils, one in Truckee and one in Kings Beach. Martin said the councils will be composed of local youth, parents, multidisciplinary professionals and other interested community members and volunteers.

Fraticelli said the program will begin at Truckee Elementary by January.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center initiative, which President Clinton successfully lobbied to Congress in 1998 to increase from $40 million to $200 million per year, has awarded $193 million in grants and has reached more than 1,600 schools in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands since it began. The grants range in size from $25,000 to over $2.6 million a year for three years.

Fraticelli, who does a lot of grant writing, said this one was a “natural.”

“I was surprised because not too many were funded,” she said. “But I know we had a very fundable, viable proposal because we were based on what was real. This grant came along at a time that was so perfect. The schools and the community were saying, ‘we want more.'”

Martin said even though the grant is for three years, the district is trying to take a long range approach.

“We are looking at the core programs that we want to provide and looking at ways to sustain them in our community,” said Martin. “We feel really positive about being able to sustain this program through various resources.”

“We’ll build as we go. The vision is to meet the needs and respond to the families,” she said.

For information on the program, contact Laurie Martin at TTUSD, 582-7600.


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