UMES-Verizon Saturday Academy Completes Fourth Year
PRINCESS ANNE, MD - The UMES-Verizon Saturday Academy recently completed its fourth year of programming at the revitalized Help Our Children Foundation in Crisfield. A vision of President Thelma B. Thompson, the Academy emerged out of the University’s charge to answer specific areas of need for students in grades nine through 12 in Somerset County.
“We were really pleased with how the session turned out,” said Greg Cain, chair of Help Our Children Foundation, Inc, “and we are pleased with our partnership with the University.”
Improving academic performance and test-taking, teaching computer skills and advancing music appreciation and performance skills is the focus of the Academy, which was funded by the Verizon Foundation in partnership with UMES in 2003. Its weekend instructional program is designed to enhance the education of the Somerset County public schools, to motivate families to pursue life-long learning and to support the No Child Left Behind law that requires students to meet raised standards of achievement.
“The University believes that by reaching out to the public and providing additional educational opportunities, it is living up to one of its greatest missions,” said UMES President Thompson. “As a public university, our mission is to provide our students with a top-flight education. Closely aligned with that mission is our commitment to reach out to the community in order to promote life-long learning and skill attainment.”
The Academy’s academic enrichment module provides a combination of both community-based and campus-based programming so that support for the Academy manifests itself in a number of ways.
The UMES Offices of Student Affairs and Retention provide preliminary testing for Academy students.
“The active participation of Dr. Ronald Brown, vice president for student affairs; Cheryll Collier-Mills, assistant vice president for student affairs; Orby Moss, director of academic support; and placement expert Louise Harmon has been vital to ensuring that student skills assessment occurs to inform teaching strategies,” said Dr. Wanda Colston, project director for the Academy.
In addition, Keith Davidson, acting athletics director, has been instrumental, with his staff, in providing ongoing motivational experiences for Academy participants and their families. In a recent “Day Out with the Hawks” event, UMES student athletes welcomed Academy students and Crisfield community leaders to the University for a few hours of fellowship, straight talk geared toward inspiring the Academy students to one day become college students and basketball.
UMES students also take an active role in the Academy. Four assisted teacher-mentor Regina Bright-Edwards in providing group and individualized teaching strategies, thus gaining participation hours for community service.
For their social enrichment, Academy students are frequently invited to attend cultural events at the University. Most recently, Academy families attended the UMES Concert Choir performance, the UMES Dinner Theatre and were in attendance and recognized during the Middle States Accreditation Evaluation Team welcome banquet.
“We serve young kids who will benefit greatly from the experience and who will have a chance to be involved with future sessions,” said Cain. “Their biggest problem is that they are so far removed from the college atmosphere, but the Saturday Academy bridges the gap. Otherwise, they would have no other way to mentally picture and prepare for their futures.”
Equally important is the module designed to promote the involvement of family members in the education of their youth. Parents and guardians participate in workshops to share information about effective and positive parenting, activities to motivate student achievement, the importance of student self-esteem and self-concept development and family commitment to life-long learning. Long-range plans include a commitment to fully involve families in the computer literacy and music performance modules.
While the University has spent three years perfecting the programming, it is not without challenges. The full development of additional modules that will greatly enhance the University’s offering to the community will depend on additional funding.
Suzanne Waters Street, interim director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-621-2355, firstname.lastname@example.org.