With state and federal budget cuts impacting school districts more and more, parents are finding new ways to enhance their child’s classroom education.
No matter where your student’s interests lie there are programs that cater to nearly everything they can dream up…and then some. Students can push themselves in the usual classroom topics, but they can also explore specific interest items that don’t have a test under common core.
Recently several Neuse Charter School elementary, middle and high school students found their passions in the state, and nation’s, capital as they pushed themselves outside the traditional classroom experience.
Judah Jenkins, an 8th grader at NCS, took his passion for robotics to Washington D.C. by attending the People to People Ambassador program in mid-November.
“We first learned about the program in the Spring of 2014 when we were informed that NCS had nominated him to attend one of the People to People Ambassador programs,” said Paul Jenkins, Judah’s father. “He expressed interest in the Robotics and Leadership Forum. This was a good fit for him as he prefers the STEM fields of study.”
Judah said he has always enjoyed robotics, but started really thinking about a career as a robotics engineer after completing the Boy Scouts robotics merit badge at the space museum in Virginia. While he still has a few years till graduation, Jenkins has his eye on NC State’s robotic engineering program with a backup plan to attend UNC in computer science.
“Programs like People to People can help me on my way to college because they can either give me college credit, offer me robotic experience and fulfill extracurricular requirements for college applications,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins had traveled to D.C. before with family, but he went into this adventure on his own not knowing anyone else at the forum…a daunting task for any 12-year-old. He also missed a couple days of school in order to attend the program that attracts today’s best and brightest youth from all across the nation.
Judah said a typical day consisted of building robots for about five hours in addition to hearing from prominent speakers such as astronauts and CEOs of robotics companies. Of course a little down time was also scheduled to let the youth unwind, get to know each other and explore the city.
Judah hopes others at NCS will take advantage of the opportunity he had. He said the experience was fun and educational and believes it will prepare him for the future.
“I gained a new knowledge of robots and programming them to help others create them,” Jenkins said. He added that the leadership insight he gained will be valuable as he develops his own leadership skills in the classroom and works to help his fellow students become better leaders too.
While Judah was working on robotics a couple hundred miles away, several other Neuse students were trying out their skills a little closer to home.
Brapagon Voyles, a sophomore at NCS, spent a recent Saturday in Raleigh participating in the Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education (PAGE) Super Saturday program.
Voyles, an inaugural member of Johnston County’s first robotics team, attended the Advanced Lego Engineering class, while little sister Jirahgon mixed it up by attending a structural engineering workshop in the morning and a creative art class in the afternoon.
“It was so much fun to build and plan out how we were going to structure our building,” said Jirahgon Voyles, a 4th grader. “It was fun to see all the other buildings the other people made. I love how we got to crush all the buildings.”
Holly Garrett, a fourth grader, also explored engineering in a class for elementary students called Bricks4Kids.
“We built an alligator and a conveyor belt out of Legos,” said Garrett. “We used battery packs to make the alligator open and close its mouth and make the conveyor belt move.”
But construction and destruction weren’t the only things keeping these students occupied. The youngest Voyles, along with fellow NCS elementary friends Shelby Garrett and Greyson Dunn also found time to participate in a course called Zentangles. Zentangles is a creative art form making images of abstract drawings using repetitive patterns in a relaxing environment.
Not all the courses offered on PAGE’s Super Saturday were for children. The program offers workshop for parents as well. In November, parents could attend a course focused around helping students enjoy math without anxiety. The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics also offered a virtual tour and talked about distance education and summer programs.
Wendy Dunn, NCS PTO Parent Enhancement Committee chair, enjoyed the programs so much she wants to bring some of the guest speakers to next year’s math night and look at NCS as a future site for hosting a PAGE Super Saturday.
“By nurturing our child's individual interests in meaningful ways we can help strengthen skills which may not develop to its fullest potential otherwise,” Dunn said. “Many of the programs would benefit NCS students and offer a unique distinctive option.”
The enrichment programs described can range anywhere from $35 to a couple thousand dollars depending on travel and length of programs. And while PAGE promotes programs for gifted children, Dunn wants everyone to know that the program focuses on youth that might have a better skill set in one area or another and that there are courses for everything from art to math and music to science.
If NCS students are any indication, enrichment programs are in hot demand and growing. Enrichment programs are not only helping kids chase their passions outside the classroom they are helping these young people bring needed life skills back into the schools.
“I learned that every little thing has a purpose. That adding something at the end is hard,” said Brapagon. “It was fun to know I could do it.”
Editor’s note: Recently People to People changed its name to Ambassador Leaders. More information on this program can be found at: http://ambassadorleaders.com/. More information for PAGE can be found at www.pagepage.org