Program assists students with learning during the summer

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

For 19 years, Central Mississippi Prevention Services has been helping students keep their minds sharp during the summer.

The organization provides a summer program of activities for children ages 5 through 13 to help them improve their reading and math skills mixed with other activities.

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The program began June 4, but Central Mississippi is still taking students. Parents can call 601-501-1530 for more information.

“Any educator certainly knows —and many other folks know — that there’s often an educational loss during the summer,” said Joe Johnson, CMPS director. “And that educational loss really affects students who cannot afford to be idle during the summer. They’re certainly not at their highest peak by any means; there’s a lot of lost time during the summer.

“We are very pleased that our board has wanted to do something in the summer to increase the capacity of students to be successful,” he said. “That combination has always included academics as well as life skills training.”

While the six-week summer program goes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, Johnson said, parents begin dropping the children off at 7.

The daily schedule starts with breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by study time including reading and math beginning at 9, then life skills training, where students learn how to get along with each other, how to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Johnson said the summer program also teaches the principles from the seven habits.

For the second year, Johnson said, the summer program is using a science-based reading program to help improve students’ reading skills.

He said the program is available through the help of the United Way of West Central Mississippi.

“It’s tested and reliable,” he said. “It has a pretest in the beginning, and then certified teachers implement the program. There’s a post-test that’s a screening that shows how they (the students) did with the benchmarks related to reading. It’s going to say how well they did in what specific areas. It’s also going to have benchmarks where they’re going to have to work to improve.”

United Way director Michele Connelly, he said, administered the pre and post-tests, and helped with the follow-ups to connect students needing work with programs at their schools.

“She also has done the pretest this year. We are so elated she has helped,” he said.

He said teachers in the summer program make sure to contact the parents of children identified by the test as having a problem in reading, and work to make sure the children have access to support programs at their schools.

“We’re thankful the United Way board decided to help us out with the resources to do that,” Johnson said. “We’ve been blessed to have a strong curriculum; I think it’s clear we’re about to go beyond the system and resources we had previously.”

The six-week program is longer than many programs, he said, “But there are lots of things a good summer camp does.”

The primary responsibility, he said, is ensuring the students are safe.

Because many parents work during the day, he said, “Many kids don’t have the supervision. They have lots of idle time, which is not a good thing.”

He said the children in the program are kept safe, and are able to eat breakfast and lunch provided by the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“They have a nutritious meal, they have a science-based program that helps them with reading. Also, they have a math curriculum.

“Summer is for fun, and one thing we do is make sure they have fun,” Johnson said. “We do our utmost to make sure they enjoy the summer. We do lots of swimming and have lots of other cultural and recreational activities. They visit most of the major museums in Jackson, they get around to the local museums, and because attendance is important, we have special awards for those who have perfect attendance.”

He said hearing how well the program is received by the community is the staff’s biggest reward.

“One lady left out this morning (Monday) saying, ‘My son really had a good week last week. He really enjoyed it.’ That’s what we like to hear. We want them to enjoy, and while they’re enjoying, we try to sneak in as much academics skills and life skills training that we can. And hopefully, there’ll be so much fun going on, they won’t even notice that they’re learning.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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