The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 31, 2013

Education gets big push in revamped Right Track

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — The three R’s — well, at least two of them — are big components of the Right Track after-school program at the Conneaut Human Resources Center.

With a staff that includes Conneaut educators, kids enrolled in the popular program this school year have seen a special emphasis on reading and math in addition to fun crafts and special activities, said Tammy Ledford, the program’s director since September.

Kids in grades 2-5 receive homework help from four different teachers as well as high school volunteers, and also have supervised access to the CHRC’s new computer lab.

“It’s an extra layer of education,” Ledford said. “It enhances what they’re already getting in the classroom. It’s been great to work with the (Conneaut Area City Schools district). The teachers have been awesome.”

Right Track members attend twice a week between 3-5 p.m. Second- and third-graders visit on Monday and Wednesdays, fourth- and fifth-graders on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each session begins with a healthy snack, followed by homework help with the teachers — two a day — and volunteers, Ledford said. The kids then assemble into groups for physical activity, games and crafts, she said.

The teens are a big help and also prove inspirational, Ledford said.

“The little ones look up to the high school kids,” she said. “Many of (the teens) were Right Track members themselves.”

Special activities are also on the calendar. The Conneaut Public Library staff will present character-building puppet shows this spring, focusing on anger management (April 8-9), bullying (April 22-23) and honesty (May 13-14). A Book Fair will be held between 1-5 p.m. April 22-25, with proceeds benefiting the program.

Right Track is funded by United Way and private donations.

To date, 85 children are signed up for Right Track, but not all attend every session. The second-/third-grade group is larger, Ledford said.

“We’re looking to bolster the fourth-/fifth-grade numbers,” she said.

Ledford helped spread the word by personally attending recent parent-teacher conferences. The extra effort has paid off — Right Track began the 2012-2013 year with 63 kids, adding 22 as the year progressed. School buses also deliver students to the CHRC for added convenience.

Right Track follows the school calendar. The program begins at the end of September and continues through May. A summer version is also offered.

Ledford said she applied for the director job after meeting with Deborah Newcomb, CHRC executive director. “She thought it might be something I’d be interested in,” Ledford said.

“For the most part, we have a great group of kids,” she said. “I like to see the smiles on their faces when they arrive. They’re glad to see you.”