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The show goes on

When there’s no school, there’s also no after school.

That didn’t sit well with the folks who run The Salvation Army’s Roller Enrichment Academy (REA) after–school program at Steelton Elementary near Harrisburg, Pa. REA is a federally funded, 21st Century Community Learning Center program.

“We wanted to still be able to serve the children in some capacity,” said Yolanda Haywood Gross, the academy’s administrator.

Gross said after Pennsylvania schools were closed due to COVID–19, she sent a survey to parents asking how REA could help. The result was the distribution of to–go enrichment packs, which are being given to students at lunch distribution sites or delivered to homes.

Included in the packs are such items as creative writing exercises, sight–-word flash cards, books, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and self–esteem and career exploration activities. REA has also engaged parents through Zoom on such topics as mental health, managing stress, scheduling, and how to navigate Google Classroom, which the local school district is using.

Gross and her site coordinator, Mylik Jupiter, put together 88 packs the first week. They plan 88 packs a week for another five weeks.

“The school district has a very robust academic schedule,” Gross said. “We’re just trying to give the students some fun activities, things that we do in the after–school program, just to enhance and enrich what they’re already learning in the classroom.

“It’s a six–week plan to take us to the end of our after–school program year.”

Then comes the Salvation Army’s summer enrichment program, which Gross believes could be completely virtual in 2020.

“We’re going to continue programming and doing virtual things and whatever we can do to keep active with our students,” she said.

Gross said she wants all students to have the opportunity to succeed.

“I think they need a good base to grow on and to be able to learn and expand,” she said. “Anything we can do to help the students, we try to do.

“The appreciation from the students and their parents motivates me to keep on working hard at it. We’re just being innovative and changing with the times.”

A Christian, Gross has another motivation.

“God has given each of us gifts and talents and they’re not just for us,” she said. “It’s to be able to put it in motion and be able to serve others, and lift others up, and share His love.”

by Robert Mitchell

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