CCMS is creating a program to keep students engaged on summer break

by: KEVIN SPERL - Doug Bristow high-fives students Nikki Mills (center), and Sara Auld as Kimberly Bonner checks students in for their meeting about the 8 + 9 Program.

The educational focus of Crook County has begun to broaden to a “cradle-to-career” mindset.

Starting at the pre-kindergarten level and staying with students until they enter college, Central Oregon’s Better Together program is working towards increasing the number of graduating students and assisting them in continuing their education and finding a meaningful career.

As part of Better Together, Kimberly Bonner, assistant principal at Crook County Middle School, is developing a summer 8 + 9 project, intended to provide support services in the summer before, and after, eighth grade, leading to an adult/student mentor relationship.

“We are trying to keep kids involved and engaged over the summer,” said Bonner. “The 8 + 9 Program is a partnership with the Camp Fire Teen in Action program to keep students connected with school.”

Bonner explained that the summer program will task students with identifying a need in the community, brainstorming a way to get involved, and then putting their plan into action.

“The project could be community beautification, working at a homeless shelter, helping the elderly, or working with young students,” said Bonner. “We want students to find a way to make a difference.”

Bonner likes to call the program “summer side support,” where adult mentors come alongside kids during the summer, giving them something to be involved in.

“We are looking for students who have been involved in The Landing and Kids Club,” she explained. “These programs go away in the summer, so we started to wonder what students were going to do.”

Bonner is not in this alone.

Chad Carpenter, from The Landing, and Ashley Thrasher, director of the Crook County Kids Club, have been talking to students, generating interest in the program.

The Landing Youth and Tutoring Center, open to middle and high school students, offers tutoring, one-on-one homework assistance, and adult and peer tutors. The service is located at the First Baptist Church and is currently open twice a week from 3 to 6 p.m.

Kids Club offers after school and non-school day activities including homework assistance, a leadership club, field trips, and community service project opportunities.

Bonner said that she is looking for, what she terms, “red zone” and “yellow zone” kids.

“These are students we know have been involved in programs that are not available in the summer,” she said. “There is some risk with these kids, but we know they will want to take part. We want them to be able to come back in the fall prepared.”

Along with Doug Bristow, a Crook County High School counselor, the team of four have brainstormed a list of students they feel would benefit from the program.

Carpenter and Thrasher have worked to connect with those students to gauge their interest in the program, while Bristow calls on students’ families to check on their availability.

Bonner said they have successfully connected with about 30 students, from which they will pick 15, aiming for a good mix of both seventh- and eighth-graders.

With the eighth grade to high school transition identified as a potentially significant academic gap resulting in students falling behind, the program is looking to provide mentors for students to help them through their high school years.

To accomplish this, Bonner plans on partnering with ASPIRE and the local Kids Club to see students through to high school graduation.

“We are looking for interested adults to be a volunteer,” she said. “Any adult with an interest in a student’s success is welcome. “

Although students might not admit it to their peers, Bonner believes that many of them really don’t like summer and would welcome the opportunity provided by the 8 + 9 Program.

“Some kids don’t like summer because it is so unstructured,” she said. “This program provides that structure for them.”

The 8 + 9 Program is schedule for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from June 25 through August 21.

Students enrolled in the program will meet from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., with lunch provided.

The program will take place at The Landing, located at 450 S.E. Fairview St., in Prineville.

Students may be dropped off as early as 7 a.m., with breakfast available, at the Crook County Kids Club at Cecil Sly Elementary School. After 12:30, students are invited to remain at the Kids Club until 6 p.m. The program is available to students in seventh and eighth grade and is free of charge.

The 8 + 9 Program will be staffed by an AmeriCORP VISTA volunteer leader who has expressed an interest in gaining valuable educational experience.

Those interested in being a student mentor are asked to contact Kimberly Bonner at 541-447-6283.

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