School’s Out: Grant benefits after-school learners

Pete Voll, owner and instructor at Full Moon Tai Chi, teaches John Oaks, 13, of Front Royal, a self-defense move on how to get out of a choke hold in Kung Fu class during Warren County Middle School's after-school program. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County Middle School students have been getting an extra helping of unique instruction through the School’s Out program.

The program runs each day from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the school. La Tasha Do’zia-Earley, site coordinator for the program, said she continued the efforts of the Youth Enrichment Program after it closed in December 2014 with School’s Out.

She said that while there are usually plenty of after-school activity options for high school and elementary school students, “the middle school age is usually the age that’s forgotten.”

Warren County Public Schools accepted a $129,760 grant in October to make the program its 21st Century Learning Center. Do’zia-Earley said the biggest advantage of the grant funding is being able to offer the program to families for free this school year. Besides that, the money goes toward purchasing materials and paying staff.

“Any need that you could possibly have as an instructor is basically covered under this grant,” she said.

Joy Jones, 14, of Front Royal, does a leg kick during Kung Fu class. Rich Cooley/Daily

School’s Out typically starts off in the afternoon with a skills enrichment activity. Teachers work with Education Coordinator Joyce Jenkins-Wimmer to form project-based lessons that complement what kids learn during the school day.

“We try to follow the SOLs and how to reinforce what they’re learning for the SOL preparation, but it’s more hands on,” Do’zia-Earley said.

Specialty enrichment sessions take up most of the remainder of the program, with community instructors coming in to teach a variety of different subjects. Students can dive into things like technology education, art lessons or entrepreneurial education.

Warren County Community Health Coalition, the grant’s co-applicant, leads drug education on some days. As Selah Theatre Project’s founding artistic director, Do’zia-Earley herself teaches drama and public speaking as part of the program.

Seventh grader Joy Jones said she likes the cooking and dance portions of the program, but her favorite is kung fu, taught by instructor Pete Voss of Full Moon Tai Chi in Front Royal.

Caileigh Miller, 11, of Front Royal, center, makes eye contact with Pete Voll, owner and instructor at Full Moon Tai Chi, as Voll conducts a Kung Fu class for the Schools Out after-school program participants. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It’s challenging,” she said. “It teaches self defense.”

Kids that aren’t up for the moment’s activity can take some down time to work on homework instead. Do’zia-Earley said the program provides plenty of options for all kinds of students.

“They get to socialize, they get to be with people that they probably wouldn’t have spoken to during the school day,” Do’zia-Earley said. “We have great integration with our special needs kids and our regular needs kids – we have our athletic kids, we have our artistic kids.”

Families can join students once a month to see them show off their skills and work together on preparing dinner for the evening.

Parent Michelle Cannan said that School’s Out is an overall win for both her and her daughter, and “the fact that it’s a free program helps a lot.”

Pete Voll, owner and instructor at Full Moon Tai Chi, conducts a Kung Fu class for Schools Out after-school program participants. At left is John Oaks, 13, and at right is Veda Bailey, 11. Rich Cooley/Daily

“They help with homework, and it kind of relieves stress for me,” she said. “Her friends are here, she has fun with her friends and she’s learning this kind of stuff that she wouldn’t have normally learned.”

The 21st Century Learning Grant will continue to fund School’s Out at Warren County Middle School for three years.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

Nate Sale, 11, of Linden, gets help from Dasha Sealock, a seventh grade science teacher, during the Schools Out after-school program at Warren County Middle School in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily