Pupils become processing units

The alliance hopes to offer the after-school program at other schools this fall.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Janess O'Kane searches for four small plastic disks in the plastic bag before her.
"Oh I see them," she says, pushing the bag toward the boy sitting next to her in the Hayes Middle School classroom. "Richard, look at my feet."
Next, Janess fastens these "feet" to the bottom of a black computer case.
Janess, 11, has already opened the case with a screwdriver.
"This is the IDE cable," she says before grabbing a mass of colored wires. "This is the power cord."
She talks of a CPU and a motherboard and the "air conditioner" she plans to install inside the computer.
"It sounds weird, but it's a little chip put by the motherboard," she says.
Janess is part of a group to pilot a new after-school program at the school. The fifth-grader has chosen to participate in the "I Built It" program through which pupils study computer use and ethics and then build their own computers.
"Now my dad doesn't have to buy me a computer for Christmas," she said during a Tuesday class.
The program was started by Tony Jones and David Clark, who have also presented the six-week course to other middle school pupils in the district, graduating 55 pupils.
The Hayes program is part of an after-school program initiated by the Youngstown Afterschool Alliance. The group includes the Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way, Youngstown City Schools, the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services, the Youngstown Playground Association and Mahoning County commissioners.
Providing management is the Jewish Community Center and services are provided by various agencies including Prevention Partners Plus, American Karate Studios, the Youngstown State University SMARTS Program, the Neil Kennedy Clinic, and I Built It Inc.
Something extra
The program for fifth- through eighth-graders runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., picking up where other after-school programs leave off. It offers more programs than after-school programs at other schools; and pupils receive a snack and dinner and are bused home if necessary.
A goal is to have similar programs at schools on the north, east and west sides of the city, said Angie Cameron, youth services director at the JCC.
"It started from the teachers and the community. There was a need for children's activities between 4:30 and 7:30 to keep them off the streets and out of trouble and give them something positive," Cameron said.
Among programs offered are swimming, karate, basketball, aerobics, peer leadership, drum circle, "girl power," peer relations, homework center, sign language class, theater, opera and arts.

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