Looking to grow faster

Running at less than capacity jeopardizes efforts to get funding grants renewed,the coordinator said.
SHARPSVILLE, Pa. -- The Sharpsville Gardens Learning Center is looking for some more little people to attend its School Readiness Program.
There are 11 enrolled now but the center can easily handle 20, said Judy Haines, program coordinator.
The learning center is a joint project of the Mercer County Housing Authority, which owns the building, and Keystone SMILES (Service Making an Impact through Learning Experiences with Students) of Knox, Pa., which runs the programs.
Offerings: The School Readiness Program is free to children between the ages of 2 and 5 and offers a variety of educational experiences including music, math, fine arts, motor skill development and science, Haines said.
The program will soon offer computer education as well, she said, noting she has been able to secure grant funds to purchase two computers for children to use.
It was open only to children of people living in housing authority apartment complexes when it began last fall, but because participation is low, it is now open to anyone in the county, regardless of family income, she said.
There are separate morning and afternoon sessions with free breakfast and lunch served during the morning and free lunch and a snack provided in the afternoon.
"It's growing but not fast enough," Haines said.
Funding: The program is funded by a variety of grants Keystone SMILES has secured. If participation remains low, the agency may not be able to get those grants renewed, she said, explaining that foundations and other grant agencies may decide their educational money might be better spent elsewhere.
"We want the programs to stay here," Haines said, adding that the School Readiness Program should have at least 20 children.
That's just one of the programs offered at the learning center which, until May 2000, was just an empty building that had once served as a community center for the authority's Sharpsville Gardens apartment complex.
The housing authority and Keystone SMILES launched a joint on-the-job construction training program for authority residents and young people to renovate the building and convert it into a learning center.
Programs: Haines said there are five programs running there now, including School Readiness.
There is a care program for children from 6 months to 12 years of age, an after-school program for those age 5 and older, an America Reads program for those in kindergarten through the third grade and a Heads Up Reads Program targeting parents and teachers.
Anyone interested in enrolling their children in one of the programs or in becoming a volunteer in one of the programs should contact Haines at (724) 962-5955.

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