HJ/EDHerald Journal, Feb. 13, 2006

Community Ed, SLAM teach lessons beyond academics

By Jenni Sebora
Correspondent

Through two such programs as HLWW Community Education and SLAM, a middle school/high school student group, lessons beyond the academic classroom doors are taught and learned in numerous ways at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Schools.

Education, recreation, activities and special events for birth to age 5, youth kindergarten through 12th grade and adults, sums up in a phrase what the HLWW Community Education program is about.

Community education is based on the idea that schools belong to everyone and should serve all people through lifelong learning opportunities and aim to match needs with available resources for both individual and community education, said Margaret Marketon, the HLWW community education director.

Launched in 1978 by a community group as educational and recreational enrichment activities for adults, the program has evolved to add other components to serve people of all ages. It offers courses from Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) to Medicare.

Marketon, who has been with the program since its birth, has been an active participant in its evolution.

“The program and classes offered have been fluid through the years – we don’t stick with the same classes – the program evolves and classes change as interests change,” Marketon said.

To stay current with possible class offering ideas and community education information, Marketon attends seminars and meetings.

“In 1978, people volunteered other people (to be class instructors). We still get instructors by word-of-mouth, but we also share instructors and information with other programs, especially for specialized classes (such as for the basic home tiling course that was recently offered). The key is flexibility,” Marketon said.

HLWW community education programs show that flexibility by including: Opening Doors, a program for adults with disabilities, which Marketon noted not many other community education programs offer; ECFE, classes and special events for newborns to 5-year-olds and their parents, including a relatively new class, “Drop In and Play, which is for children five years and younger and their parents; District 2687 Preschool, now offered at all three sites, Waverly, Winsted, and Howard Lake, for children ages 3 to 5, which is presently serving 104 preschoolers. Approximately 50 percent of eligible families participate in the preschool program.

School readiness, adult basic education, English as a Second Language (ESL), general education development, and youth service are other classes offered.

School age care for grades kindergarten to six is offered before and after school and on non-school days during the school year, and all day during the summer.

Project Northland, which is a safe and drug-free universal intervention program, focusing this year on students in seventh grade, is also offered through HLWW community education.

Enrichment activities, youth programs, senior programs, and opportunities to participate in the Adult Volunteer Program are also available. Other offerings include social programs, health programs, recreation, cultural programs, trips, and special events.

Funded in part by the Wright County Family Services Collaborative, Communities Connecting Collaborative offers after school youth programs through HLWW community education, as well. Such programs include Very Important Kids (VIK) for grades kindergarten-two, Kids Jam for grades three to five, Study Club for grades six through 12, Just Read Challenge, a summer program to encourage reading, an after school ESL program, and the youth center.

These programs provide homework help, computer time, and fun. County-wide Big Brothers and Big Sisters program is also offered through the Collaborative.

Community education’s work does not stop there as it is also responsible for scheduling facility use after 3 p.m. for more than 90 groups including traveling clubs, Scout groups, men’s and women’s volleyball, and other groups.

Whatever the course, class, or activity offering may be, HLWW community education is being accessed by many participants.

In the fall of 2005, it had 901 participants attending 64 activities, and the art and craft fair attendance would add hundreds to this total, Marketon noted. These numbers also don’t include participants in school-age, ECFE, and youth development programs.

Marketon also noted that in a year, there are over 12,000 direct user participants, 78,000 contact hours, over 8,000 facility participants, and approximately 86,000 contact hours in facility use. The numbers speak for themselves.

As community education is part of the school, it is funded, in part, through school funding.

“Community education is funded, in part, by the school district through categorical funding. It is not part of the general fund,” Marketon explained.

But the program also receives funding and resources through grants, participant fees, and shared resources with other entities, such as other school districts.

For more information or to offer suggestions for a future class, contact community education at (320) 543-3600.

SLAM

When one hears the phrase, “Kids these days…” one hasn’t met students involved in the SLAM organization at HLWW.

SLAM is comprised of HLWW middle and high school students whose mission is strictly to serve and help out its school and communities. It’s as simple as that.

What started as a class, transpired into what one may call a group of kids volunteering their time to make their communities and school a better place and to help out their fellow human beings.

And both seniors and SLAM leaders Brent Zachmann and Sam Painschab agree that the students involved in SLAM, which numbers about 60 presently, are not involved for the recognition, or to put it on their school resumes, but because they want to help people.

The requirements to belong: complete three service events or activities a year.

Although the group is overseen by a school faculty member, it is run by the students, and the students, either individually or in a group, come up with the service activities.

“The members approach us with their ideas because we are in charge of the budget,” Zachmann said. And the activity flourishes from there.

Except for one large group meeting at the beginning of the school year to discuss its annual fundraiser, which has been selling pizzas, there are no other large group meetings, and really, no officers. The money raised from its fundraiser is strictly used for its mission, service activities.

Some of the events and activities have included hosting a 3-on-3 basketball tournament the day before Thanksgiving and serving a potluck dinner to the participants, feeding pizza to an opposing team who has traveled a good distance to come to HLWW, hosting a monthly potluck meal at the school to HLWW faculty and area business leaders, and bringing food and meals to people and families who have experienced a tragedy, Zachmann noted.

“Many of the activities or things that members have done have centered on helping people who have encountered a tragedy. We’ve brought a ham dinner to a family who lost a loved one and brought a meal to student who was in a car accident,” Zachmann said.

And the group also likes to have fun and share camaraderie too, Painschab noted, such as playing volleyball in the morning.

A major event that SLAM sponsors that is centered on healthy fun is its annual Superstars event, which recently took place at the HLWW high school/middle school gym.

“The event is open to anyone who wants to have some fun,” Zachmann said.

Superstars consists of 10-member teams, made up of five females and five males, that compete in 32 different events, which change from year to year.

Some of the Superstars events have included a lemon race, darts, an obstacle course, arm wrestling, spoons, Frisbee, I.Q. test, Pictionary, Cribbage, balloon stuff, and a balloon stomp. The event usually culminates in the grand finale dodgeball tournament, Zachmann explained.

Free food and beverages are available for participants, including pizza donated by Bernatello’s, and participants receive shirts. Trophies, constructed by SLAM members, are awarded for every event.

“Last year, 40 teams participated, so we had 400- plus people in the high school,” Zachmann said.

The fun doesn’t stop there, as SLAM also hosts a dance in the school gym following the Superstars event.


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