Net Summary

Children in the Ashland Family YMCA's after-school Kids' Club are getting a little extra help with their homework, thanks to two educational specialists hired through a grant from the Carpenter Foundation.

Ashley Schwedes, an educational assistant at Bellview Elementary, and Pix Cue, who has worked at both Walker and Helman elementary schools, meet with the children in small groups in half-hour intervals in a quiet, classroom-like setting next to the Kids' Club room.

"It's great for the kids and a work in progress," said Cue, after finishing a game of math bingo with five second-graders. "We have to adapt to the ages and needs of each group that comes in. We may help the older children with assigned homework or play vocabulary games with the younger ones. Ashley and I stay flexible based on the children's needs."

Before the grant, YMCA staff helped kids with their homework. But after the Ashland School District made extensive budget cuts last year that resulted in fewer classroom aids and larger classroom sizes, parents felt that their children weren't receiving the same amount of academic support, said Laurie Schaaf, associate director at the YMCA.

"The YMCA decided to be pro-active in supporting children and families by providing some extra educational support from highly qualified educational specialists who many of the kids already know from their own schools," Schaaf said.

Michelle Zundel, Bellview principal and YMCA board member, helped Schaaf recruit candidates for the new positions.

"The YMCA supports the development of our children socially, emotionally and physically," Zundel said. "With the education specialist grant, they can add academic support to that list.

"I am delighted that our students will benefit from this program. It's an added bonus for parents when their children complete their homework at the YMCA so they can enjoy family time when they get home in the evenings."

The Carpenter grant was for $6,000 and was awarded in January.

"Academic success is important to a child's self-esteem," said Schaaf. "The YMCA builds self-esteem in children and is supportive of positive development in many ways — providing homework assistance is just one of these ways."

For more information about the Kids' Club after-school program, visit www.ashlandymca.org or call (541) 482-9622.

Susan Aaronson is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail her at susanaaronson@hotmail.com.