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    Ponchatoula Student Outreach holds victory celebration

    From the happy expressions on the faces of after-school students entering the Ponchatoula Community Center recently, it was easy to see something exciting was about to happen.

    After their usual healthy snacks, pupils first eagerly participated in Mad Science projects.

    Mad Science of Southeast Louisiana is a leading science enrichment provider based in Metairie. Its trained technicians travel year ‘round throughout the area bringing “education wrapped in entertainment” to schools, birthday parties, and many other special events.

    “Dr. B” Brittany and “Super Nova” Shelby led in making technicolor blenders, using molecules to make physical and chemical reactions. Teachers and Director Offering Congratulations

    Later, parents and guardians joined students in the gym to enjoy a full delicious jambalaya meal with salad, vegetables, and desserts at tables displaying student artwork with positive comments about the after school program.

    Earlier, City Human Resources Director Lisa Jones had personally provided pottery supplies needed for the students to make handmade gifts for their parents. Each decorated box read “Let these gratitude beads be a constant reminder of how much I appreciate everything you do for me.”

    Student Outreach Director May Stilley and Mayor Bob Zabbia welcomed the crowd, thanking the many who boost the youth in the program: Community Center Director Lynette Allen, City Council Members represented by Braville LeBlanc, Advisory Board, teachers, bus drivers, volunteer tutors from SLU Math 367 and PHS Key Club, to name a few.

    Teachers joined Stilley congratulating their students as they handed each a Certificate of Completion. (1st and 2nd grades: Charlotte Gordon and Daphine Griffin, Para’s: Shirley Creel and Cathy Colkmire; 3rd and 4th grades: Lisa O’Donnell and Desrie George; Para’s: Annette Tullier, Leigh Burnthorne and Kelly Martin; 5th and 6th grades: Kim James and Elisha Perry; Para’s: Janea Magee and Kacey Martin; 7th and 8th grades: Windy Haist and Alison Buzbee.)

    Desrie George’s beautiful voice rang out as he sang from his heart “You Can Fly” – words to encourage not giving up but working to make dreams come true.

    At comment time, Key Club officers Austin Granier and Matt Hailey were quick to say their lives have been enriched by working with the students each day.

    Students themselves came forward with smiles, one expressing her initial fear of being with strangers but it had been more like family as she gained new friends.

    Rejoicing at good gradesAnother young lady beamed she had gone from Fs to As in Math. Next, her father praised the program for its help, adding with humor, there’s no longer stress in their home over homework! A mother agreed from her seat to the change in her home and how grateful she is for all the people who make it possible. To this, many “amens” rang out.

    Before the evening closed with Bingo, May Stilley reminded parents and guardians of the 53 students that they have the most influence: “You are the first teacher.”

    She continued to the students, “We want our community to be the best it can be. Obey law, respect each other and the community. Find something you like to do, study to do it, then find somebody to pay you to do it. It all starts with education.”

    In teachers’ personal written comments to Stilley, one expressed the thoughts of all, saying each student is placed in their lives for a reason. They might not all be a “shining star” or “perfect student” but by opening the doors of communication and learning from each other, even those arriving with a “don’t care” attitude, can turn their lives around to believe in themselves when they see how many others already believe in them.

    The program for the coming school year will begin in September. For more information or if you would like to volunteer, donate or become a sponsor for the program, contact May Stilley at 985-401-2210 or Lisa Jones at 985-386-6484.

     

    By Kathryn J. Martin
    Contributing Writer

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    Ponchatoula Student Outreach celebrates second year

    The City of Ponchatoula again participated in the national “Lights On Afterschool” event with its “Family & Friends Night” at the Ponchatoula Community Center for a time of celebrating the growth and positive results of its own after-school program.
    Called “Ponchatoula Student Outreach,” the program’s motto is “From Afterschool to Bright Futures” and according to reports on improvement in behavior and grades, the future is looking much brighter for some who have needed that extra encouraging nudge.
    It was more like Thanksgiving with all the appreciation expressed by each speaker from the microphone as well as family members around the tables.
    Program Director May Stilley and Mayor Bob Zabbia kicked off the evening with warm welcomes and thanks to students, parents, and guardians, City Council members, principals, teachers, volunteers and sponsors who have been generous in time and means to help the City make it all possible. School board members Mike Whitlow and Rose Dominguez were in attendance and acknowledged.
    Stilley also paid special tribute to the school bus drivers who do not charge extra to bring the students from their respective schools to the Community Center for their classes and to Transportation Coordinator, Tessa Hills. At one table, Key Club members from Ponchatoula High School were recognized for their volunteering to help give one-on-one help.
    After a meal, guest speaker Superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish School System, Melissa Stilley, continued in the same positive manner, offering her gratitude for the way the people of Ponchatoula have responded in so many ways to the student outreach. She said, “This is evidence of what partnership is all about,” adding her wish for every community to have an after-school program.
    Starting the program in time for the 2017 school year required a lot of preparatory work by Human Resources Director, Lisa Jones, and May Stilley, aiding Mayor Zabbia in realizing a dream come true and supported by him and the City Council.
    This school year, first and second grades were added bringing the total enrollment to 50 students and it is stressed this is not a babysitting program. Classroom teachers recommend the students that would profit most from the extra help. Ponchatoula Student Outreach teachers are available to meet with parents and guardians when picking up their children after classes.
    Staff for 2018-19 are 1st and 2nd grades: Daphne Griffin and Charlotte Gordon; 3rd and 4th: Kimberly James and Elisha Perry; and 7th and 8th: Windy Haist and Jennifer Daigle.
    Classroom assistants are Shirley Creel, Cathy Colkmire, Annette Tullier, Leigh Burnthorne, Jenea Magee, and Kacey Martin.
    The advisory board is comprised of members from each school participating. They are Amber Gardner, Tucker Elementary; Tamaria Whittington, D.C. Reeves; Rosalyn Heider and Melissa Ryan, Martha Vinyard; Mary Beth Crovetto, Ponchatoula Junior High; and Shelly Ernst and Danette Ragusa, St. Joseph School.
    The program uses community resources for youth to see and connect with positive role models.
    For those interested in being a sponsor, mentor or volunteer to invest in the long-term future success of the students and the community as a result, call her at 985-401-2210.

    By Kathryn J. Martin

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