After-school academy serves area youth

Students at St. Luke’s After School Academy in Hollister receive

Public schools all over California are being pressured by the state’s hard economic times. Budgets continue to be cut, impacting students: larger classes, fewer enrichment programs, less individual attention. Also, increased gang activity has resulted from cutbacks in after-school activities.
Three years ago the leadership of Hollister’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (720 Monterey St.) recognized this problem and sought to turn it into an opportunity. After careful study, they refurbished a small cottage adjacent to the church to serve as a learning space. Then they hired a director for St. Luke’s After School Academy, recruited students and began offering a high-quality academic program to neighborhood youth.
After a successful pilot program last summer, the after-school academy began in October. Currently, seven students in second through sixth grades attend four days per week from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
One emphasis of the program is to help participants complete the homework assignments from their regular classrooms. This is important because many parents aren’t able to provide help with academic subjects, and even if they are, this can become a source of family stress as parents feel pressured to monitor homework while simultaneously keeping up with household tasks after a busy day at work.
The afternoon passes quickly as participants also receive individual tutoring in subjects, learn how to budget their time through individual scheduling, read together with Linda Smith, director of the academy, and do assignments related to their classroom work. Also, there is a healthy snack to keep their energy levels high and their brains alert.
Smith is a retired Hollister educator with 35 years of experience as a teacher in grades from the elementary years through college, as well as in educational administration. She finds her position enjoyable because she can help them individually in a pleasant, supportive environment.
“I can feel the students energizing me as I work with them,” she said.
There have been many success stories already:
– A second-grader who completely lacked the concept of adding and subtracting money was able to understand it after a few sessions of practicing with coins and bills.
– A third-grader who was able to master multiplication quickly by using manipulatives to discover it was really just adding a groups of numbers.
– A fourth-grader reported his amazement that he hadn’t had to serve detention since he began at St. Luke’s. “Now my homework is always done, and I get to go to recess with everyone else,” he said.
There are a few openings in the program; students may attend two, three or four days per week, and the cost for attendance is pro-rated.
There is also an opportunity for volunteers from the community to help expand its outreach. After background checks and training, participants can help develop supportive relationships with the students while preparing and serving snacks, tutoring or sharing personal talents like music, art or other hobbies.
The Rev. Amy Denny Zuniga, Priest in Charge of St. Luke’s Church, invites parents to call (831) 637-7570 for more information.
“We want to fill a need in the community that is more than childcare,” she said. “This is a high quality program that can help students succeed in school.”

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