Miracle Fox and Quie-Shaun Price are seventh-graders at Nyack Middle School. This year they’ve been part of the district’s new Fresh Start program, a new after-school program to help middle-schoolers who live at Waldron Terrace apartments with their homework.
The program is held at the apartment complex’s community center three days a week from 5 to 6 p.m. About 18 students participated, all of whom live in Waldron Terrace. About seven Nyack teachers spent their Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings running the program and the results, by all accounts, have so far been terrific.
The district tracks individual student academic performance, attendance and disciplinary issues and says those in the program have charted improvements over the last few months.
“Data shows that this has been very positive for us,” Superintendent Joe Montesano said Thursday, at an end-of-year celebration for Fresh Start students.
In addition to grades, the program boosted the students’ “concept of themselves,” Montesano said.
Miracle and Quie-Shaun said they love the program — and love having it within a stone’s throw of their living rooms — and report that their grades have improved dramatically this year with help from the one-on-one attention they’ve got from teachers.
Nyack Middle School Principal Kevin Brentnall, who is in his first year at the district, said the program was initiated last year in response to parents at Waldron Terrace who asked for help because their kids were failing classes, acting out and feeling isolated from their school community.
The low-income housing complex is located up on a hill and set apart from the village of Nyack and kids who live there sometimes have a hard time getting rides to after-school activities. Many come from single-parent families and have parents working one or more jobs, making it difficult for them to get homework help and find a supervised and structured environment to go after school.
“This is a neighborhood that has largely been … excluded from other things that happen in the village,” Family Resource Center Coordinator Lisa Retallack said.
Retallack and her colleagues run the program using part of a $12,000 grant delivered by State Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City. Some of the grant funding also went toward a new girls’ club that pairs middle school girls with mentors. Officials hope both programs can continue next year with support from Carlucci. If necessary, the superintendent will recommend that the Board of Education find the funding within the district’s budget.
There’s also interest in expanding Fresh Start to include high school students and offering homework help at other community sites, officials said. The district already has a similar program in place at the Waldron Terrace Community Center for elementary students.