Education feature: Melrose afterschool program meeting with success

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

A new afternoon program at Melrose School is proving itself through better grades for some students while helping working parents.

“We want to give our children a little extra boost in their work,” said third grade teacher Eileen Massey. “Some children don’t have help at home with their homework. Parents are happy that we’re doing it, the kids are glad and have someone to help them…and their homework is done.”

Melrose is one of nine area rural schools that started an afternoon program from a $300,000 federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant.

The program provides students two extra hours of time for homework and enrichment after school, three days a week.

Massey said homework is an essential part of learning and the program focuses on it.

“It’s an opportunity to help our children,” Massey said.

Language arts teacher Dee Hill, one of 15 teachers involved with the program, has noticed an improvement with the students since the program started Feb. 9.

“Some kids who wouldn’t have their homework (done) do. And they’re so proud,” she said.

Hill said the students are required to read at least 20 minutes a day. Students who stay after for the program usually go out for recess, come in for a snack and then hit the books.

“We hear from parents that their home life is better. They don’t have to stress about homework all night,” she said. “And this is a safe environment for the kids to go after school. So many parents have to work these days.”

The Melrose program is funded by a 21st Century grant written by the Regional Education Center 6 in Portales and Director Patti Harrelson. At present, the 21st Century grant is a four-year program.

The center is one of nine in the state that works with smaller rural schools by writing grants, handling federal grant money and offering cooperative services.

Harrelson said the schools share the grant for the afternoon programs.

Dora, Elida, Floyd, Fort Sumner, Grady, House, Melrose, San Jon and Texico will each receive about $25,000 for similar afternoon programs. Logan, which is also serviced by REC6, was previously granted money for a program.

The afternoon program is for grades 1-12.

Two teachers are available to help participating high school students.