21st Century Community Learning Center Grants Expand Greenbrier County After-School Programs

After school programs, including 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants, have expanded in Greenbrier County over the past few years.

At the Tuesday, November 9, Greenbrier County Board of Education meeting, Vicky Cline, Director of Technology, Assessment, and Accountability for the school system, explained what the grant programs allowed the schools to accomplish.

“For the 21st Century grants, the first one we received was actually for the two middle schools and they’re in their fifth and final year in the spring,” said Cline. “When you receive one of these grants, it’s about a million dollars over five years. [The middle schools] started out with just a few students in school, and … nearly 10% of their population do take part in these grants. … We were very excited to get this grant with the two high schools, it took us two years of writing that grant to get it. This is their first year.”

Cline noted the programs allow “students [to] go eat dinner, and they can go straight into credit recovery. The credit recovery is set up a little differently for East and West, but it’s set up so the student can recover as many credits as they are able, if they’re willing to put time into recovery. We’re hoping that more students are going to take advantage of that program.”

A newsletter on both programs was distributed during the meeting, outlining the basic idea and funding for each.

“Greenbrier East and Greenbrier West are in their first year of a 5-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant and they are off to a great start. The program, called GoGreenbrier, is CTE and STEAM-based. It will provide nearly $1 million in grant funding for Greenbrier East and Greenbrier West High Schools over five years. Students begin with a dinner provided by the National School Lunch Program and then have 30 minutes to complete homework or work on personalized learning using programs that target English and mathematics skills. Students then move to enrichment activities, led by teacher and student leaders. Greenbrier East programs include music, mural design, eSports, and riflery. Greenbrier West programs include building trades/trail work, music, graphic design, foraging, eSports, and reflery. Students also have an option to spend their time on credit recovery.”

“Eastern and Western Greenbrier Middle Schools are in the fifth and final year of their 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. Easterns’ UKnight and Westerns Wolfpack programs have grown and become part of the fabric of their schools. The STEAM-based after school programs partner with Communities in Schools of Greenbrier County, The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, and Wellspring of Greenbrier in Rupert. … Eastern’s UKnight program averages 65 to 70 students a day and Western’s Wolfpack averages 25 to 30.”

The school hopes all four programs get students more involved with their local communities.

“Our goal is not only to get our students to have a safe place and help them be successful academically, but we want to help them become more involved in our community,” Cline said. “We have some wonderful partnerships with Communities in Schools, they’ve worked with our students at all schools. … The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine has volunteered to come and mentor the students, both middle school and high school.

Cline also referenced speakers from Greenbrier Valley Pride, who spoke to the Board of Education concerning bullying of LGBTQ students. (Author’s note – this writer was one of those speakers)

“Listening to some of the [speakers during public comment] tonight, one of the important things that we do with all of our programs … is social and emotional regulation,” Cline explained. “We try to teach students to think about how their actions affect other people in our school. … One of the things that we try to teach our students is to be mentors for younger students and think about their view as they go through their school day, as they work.”

One of the activities at Western Greenbrier involves a high tunnel, a kind of greenhouse, that has been in the works for about two years.

“This is one we’re particularly proud of … a partnership between Western and West,” Cline said. “We’ve actually hired five students just yesterday, and two of them are sitting right here [serving as student representatives to the Board of Education], from Greenbrier West who are going to be mentors [and travel] to Western Greenbrier Middle School to monitor and set it up. … They set up these … incredible empty shells, they’re huge, you could live in it, [and] these young ladies are going to be mentoring middle school students, and working with them to get that up and running.”

Director of Elementary Education Ann Smith also updated the board on afterschool programs on the elementary level.

“Looking ahead, right now we have enrolled 34 in Alderson, 63 in Lewisburg, 30 at Rupert, 54 at Ronceverte, 23 in Frankford, and 83 in White Sulphur. We are looking at what we had last year. … Last year, we had 322 students in the elementary program.”

The kids enrolled in the program take part in a variety of activities. Smith expanded it was informed by the requirement of “STEAM activities, which is science, technology, enrichment, arts, and music. [We do] physical fitness every week, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, homework assistance, and parent-community involvement. … Students are tracked looking at their grades, their attendance, their behaviors, their state assessment scores, and their homework completion. We met all of those goals last year.”

The program is also expanding.

“We are very excited that we are now using extra funds, so all of our schools will now have an after school program. Smoot and Crichton [Elementary Schools] will start next week.”

Smith excitedly noted one creative project a group of students took on that their parents could see at home.

“One of the things that we are required to do is, of course, parent involvement. In the last two years, we were unable to do our final activity of the year, which was bringing the parents in and let them participate. … We decided to create our own town. LEGO kits were ordered and each group of students within our age either did a simple Lego building or more complicated LEGO building. They put all those together in a town, and then the students name their town and describe their town, saying who was the mayor and writing stories. We turned that into a newsletter for the [at home] parents, even though they weren’t there, they could see what the kids were doing.

Cline thanked all the Greenbrier County Schools staff and volunteers that make the after school programs possible.

“We’re really excited about these programs,” Cline said. “The other thing I want to say is what makes these programs successful are the people who work in those programs. … We’re appreciative of Jane Curry working with us for the school lunch program to make that possible. We’re appreciative of George Brooks, who provides the buses for this, enabling the students to stay. [we appreciate] the teachers who are willing to stay after. … These teachers model and teach during the school day, they stay after for two hours with the students and give their time to the students to make their school better and for the students’ opportunities. Without them, these programs would not work. … We have the best programs, and we’re very proud of them. And we’re very appreciative of your support of those programs. We would invite you to come out and work with us.”

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