Every once in a while the stars align, and all the cumulative efforts of several organizations and multitudes of individuals and businesses come together and produce something that is exceptional. Such is the case with the recent “Cool School” after-school pilot program, a collaborative effort co-sponsored by Headwaters, Rappahannock County Public Schools and 4-H.
Cool School improved with age and each session just got better. We ran 16 weeks of after-school, twice a week at the public elementary school for third-, fourth and fifth-graders. There was a small fee but no student was turned away. Our last session had 36 students participate, which was the average enrollment for each session.
We started the day at 3:30 with a snack prepared by the high school’s culinary arts students (thank you, Chef Kurt Streu). Then we headed outside and enjoyed planned activities or free play on the new playground. We came in and every student had a half hour to spend completing homework or reading. Adults were available to assist students by explaining difficult assignments, calling out spelling words, reviewing math concepts or reading aloud.
Our goal was to show students organizational skills and help them get their homework done. Students also had the opportunity to work on the school’s Accelerated Reading Program and improve their reading comprehension. After homework, Cool School offered enrichments in drama, rod-puppet making, dance, sports, crafts, Lego-machines, tennis, Farm-to-Table and science – children could choose which area they wanted to pursue for each session. We put on puppet shows, dance demonstrations and theatrical performances for parents. Children became stars.
In Cool School, group leaders were hired to lead clubs and children enjoyed the expertise of professionals, retired teachers and folks with a passion for a specific subject area. Volunteers were the staple of Cool School. We had two volunteers, Steve Carroll and Amanda Stephens, who were there day after day in all three sessions and offered children the kind of attention you can’t pay for.
Throughout the program we had 10 adults leading various enrichments and although they were paid a small stipend, it didn’t come close to the rewards the children reaped from those programs. Eight teenagers from the high school and middle school were trained by Jenny Kapsa, our talented county 4-H leader, and these students helped with all parts of the program. These older children became mentors for the younger students. All our volunteers attended training sessions as well. Our volunteers contributed more than 400 hours of time and were essential in making this program a success. Thank you to our club leaders, volunteers, teens and helpers. And, thank you to all the children who participated and their parents for picking them up on time and understanding the importance of enrichment.
Thank you to the following people for their help in laying the foundation for Cool School: Philip Strange, Clair Turner, Toni Egger and then Jenny Kapsa, Dani Pond, Beth Hilscher and John Lesinski; and to these people who worked in our program this past school year: Lucy Ann Maeyer, Jennifer Rattigan, Vickie Miller, Tanya White, Liz Blubaugh, Maureen Day, Dabney Kirchman, Layne Vickers, Trista Grigsby, Chelsa Kamody, Toni Egger, Rhonda Jenkins; and to our volunteers Amanda Stephens, Steve Carroll, Jean Chambers, Dot Lessard, Ashleigh Cannon-Sharp, Jennifer Aldrich, Carolyn Thornton; and to our student interns Brittany Dwyer, Bryn Sonnet, Emily Massie, Caleb Stump, Ritchie Pratt, Annie Stout, Sara Garcia and Skie Kirchman.
Thank you to superintendent Aldridge Boone and principal Cathy Jones for helping this program succeed; thanks also to Todd Endo and Dede McClure for their professional input and to the Headwaters board: Jennifer Manly, Doug Schiffman, Julie MacDonald-Winbush, Phyllis Holt, Amanda Stephens, Jennifer Aldrich, Steve Carroll, Ashleigh Cannon-Sharp, Jimmy Swindler and David Leive for approving and moving this program forward.
Finally, thank you to the following for the financial support this year that allowed Cool School to exist: Rappahannock Electric Charity, Curriculum Enrichment, RCPS, Red Oak Mountain Foundation through NPCF, Helen Williams, Michelle Benecke and Lila Helms, Peter and Cathy Kreyling, Rick and Dot Lessard, Patton Wilson, Robert and Karen Darby, Todd Summers and Chris Co, Ralph Beyer, Clay Batchelor, Todd and Paula Endo, Nancy Raines, Hal Hunter, Stephen Cloutier, Dorothy and Gray Armistead, the Blue Rock Inn and Chester Gap Cellars (and anyone I inadvertently left out).
This program is an outstanding example of many diverse groups working together to invest in and benefit the children in Rappahannock County. Bravo!