Grant will bolster after school activities

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School nurse Jennelle Schroeder works with students during a meeting of the McGregor Center Art Club. A recent grant will aid programs like this that forge relationships between staff and students. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

MFL MarMac has received a $10,000 grant through HAWC (Howard, Allamakee, Winneshiek, Clayton) Partnerships for Children, which will bolster activities offered to students outside the regular school day.

One of the programs is an after school art club. Offered at both the high school and the McGregor Center, the club allows students to spend time with their friends, while being creative and having fun. Art teacher Natalie Heiring and school nurse Jennelle Schroeder lead several sessions a month at the middle school, while art teacher Michelle Meyer handles duties at the high school.

The time gives students, who may not be involved in other extra-curricular activities, time to socialize and share thoughts and feelings about what’s going on in their lives, said McGregor Center principal Denise Mueller, who applied for the grant.

“Creating art and talking with adults during that time is good for them,” she said. “It’s like a school-based, mentor-type project. You’re tying in a lot of social skills.”

At the middle school, students are also participating in after school teaching and tutoring, or TNT, sessions. Mueller said nearly 20 students regularly attend the sessions, which are supervised by two staff members.

Students attend on a voluntary basis, she noted, either to receive extra help on their homework or to take advantage of extra time to complete their assignments. That quiet, uninterrupted time can often be difficult to carve out, Mueller explained, if the student has a busy home life with a lot of siblings.

“It’s a good routine for them,” she said. “There’s an adult right there to help them start and get going. There’s also extra time to use a computer and the internet.”

High schoolers have similar access to academic help and resources in the mornings, before school starts.

Aside from going toward these programs, Mueller said she’s hoping some of the grant funds can be used during several middle school art sessions this summer. Kids expressed interest in doing more with clay and murals, projects they don’t always have the opportunity to complete during regular art classes.

While the programs allow students to express their creativity and improve academically, Mueller said the relationships they forge with school staff are even more important.

“They feel comfortable and safe. It’s a place they can excel,” she shared. “Any time you can create relationships with students is huge.”

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