WARREN Program bridges learning gap

About 700 Warren pupils are spending their summer in the classroom.
WARREN -- Kenya Roberts stood at the front of the cafeteria in Western Reserve Middle School, bellowing orders to the hundred-or-so kids fidgeting on the hard benches.
"Sixth-graders who want to play football -- stand up and go over there," the petite woman said, pointing to her right. "Sixth-graders! Football! Over there!"
A few kids in bright yellow "Summer Bridges" T-shirts walked across the room, standing in a line to go outside.
Roberts, school communications liaison, eventually sent the rest of the kids involved in the school district's Summer Bridges program to either play basketball or make crafts.
The program, in its eighth year, serves more than 700 elementary and middle school pupils throughout the school district, said April Caraway, the district's outreach manager.
Elementary pupils meet from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and middle school pupils from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Both have instruction in the morning and enrichment and recreational activities in the afternoon. Free breakfast and lunch are provided thanks to a grant from the Ohio Summer Food Service Program.
Jasmine Stringer, 12, her brown braids adorned with a small white head scarf, bent over the brightly colored lanyard she was working on. Small gold hoops glinted in her ears.
Learning is fun: "They make learning fun here," she said, looking up briefly. "And it's something to do in the summer."
Her light brown eyes twinkled, and she added with a laugh, "Besides, I like the T-shirts."
Christopher Harris, 10, likes the journal-writing part of the morning classes the best.
"It's fun -- you get to do all these projects, and the teachers are nice," he said, smiling. Usually in the summer, the soon-to-be fifth-grader reads a lot.
"Actually, I don't have a choice because my mom makes me," he admitted with a laugh. He still really likes all the books they read in class -- a main component of Summer Bridges.
The program's smaller class sizes allow for more one-on-one instruction and give pupils the opportunity to focus on reading -- what Caraway calls the key to achievement.
The classes also highlight critical thinking, study skills, math and hands-on experience.
The program is offered because research shows students in the summer forget some of the lessons they learned, Caraway said, and teachers spend the first few weeks of a new school year reviewing lessons from the year before.
Pupils will be "ready to move right into the next year," if they participate in the program, Caraway said.
The program began June 25 and runs through July 26, Mondays through Thursdays.
"It keeps kids out of trouble," Roberts said. "And it keeps them from taking that long summer break -- they keep learning."

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