WILKES-BARRE ‚?? The two dozen children happily rush to the Westminster Presbyterian Church to do their homework every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon.
Well, that‚??s not the only reason these kids are so enthusiastic.
They participate in a program called ‚??Center of the Village‚?Ě run by the reverends Anne and Greg Emery, who are ministers at the church‚??s three locations, including this one at the corner of Lockhart and Westminster streets in South Wilkes-Barre. The Center of the Village program provides ‚??a safe and loving‚?Ě after-school environment for students in kindergarten through fourth grade, including individualized assessment and learning activities tailored to each student.
When the students arrive at about 3:30 p.m. they are given a snack and then they do their homework, supervised by a volunteer. When homework is finished, they play organized games, engage in academic activities like creative writing, math, geography, culture and science, and finish up with arts and crafts, music and drama and reading time. ÔĀł Angela Rojas of Wilkes-Barre enrolled her daughter, Abigail, a 7-year-old second-grader at Kistler Elementary School, and the results have been significant. Rojas said she moved here from Ohio where teachers told her Abigail wasn‚??t doing well. ‚??But here at Kistler I‚??m told she is an excellent student and a great communicator,‚?Ě Rojas said. ‚??This program has helped her so much. I will keep her enrolled here.‚?Ě
Rojas said that, as a parent, she forgets what it‚??s like to be a second-grader. She said the people at Center of the Village know how to handle the students and help them.
Retired elementary school teacher Carol Conaway of Kingston volunteers with the program because she believes in its value.
‚??I‚??ve been here since the program started in September 2011,‚?Ě she said. ‚??I‚??ve always loved what I do and I enjoy these kids. They are so interested in learning.‚?Ě Conaway said the students are ‚??a bunch of smart kids‚?Ě who arrive each day eager to learn.
When church member Shirley Cavanaugh heard about the program she decided to put her love of music to use teaching the energetic students songs.
Cavanaugh, who retired from the Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Control Enforcement Bureau, said she decided to devote her time to the center after her son, Christian, died of leukemia a year and a half ago. ‚??I get just as much of a reward back from the children,‚?Ě she said. ‚??Working with them is a true blessing.‚?Ě
Joe Polombo of Trucksville grew up near the church. He enjoys playing games with the students and helping them with homework.
‚??Every day I come here I see the diversity of the kids who are our neighborhoods,‚?Ě he said. ‚??This program provides a safe learning environment for the kids.‚?Ě One day last week a group of students from the Wilkes University Health and Wellness Club arrived to teach the students healthy eating habits and offer well-being tips. Allie Givens, 22, a junior nursing major from Ohio, brought five other students to show a PowerPoint presentation to the children. The Wilkes club does a program every semester at the center. ‚??We go over the food pyramid,‚?Ě Givens said. ‚??We ask them what they eat, if they think it‚??s healthy and how many servings they have each day. They love to participate and the younger they learn good habits, the better.‚?Ě
Greg Emery said Ann Anderika, director, is the only paid employee at the center. Volunteers are screened and funding for the program is provided by the Wyoming Valley Presbyterian Church, church member donations and from businesses such as Schiel‚??s Market, Mericle Real Estate, Dr. David Kistler and donations from the public. ‚??The center was created to serve families who have limited access to other services or facilities,‚?Ě Emery said. ‚??The cool thing about this effort is that it involves such a wide range of people ‚?? from first graders to great-grandparents.‚?Ě