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CAPPA extends its academic offerings with programs that help students excel

August 6, 2011
By AMANDA ALEXANDER - , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

There is more to the Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action than meets the eye.

Since its inception in 2002, CAPPA has been best known for the annual performance arts showcase that allows Williamsport's young people to display their singing, dancing and speaking talents for the community. With the CAPPA Showcase stealing the spotlight each year, the organization's educational and life skills programs have become one of Williamsport's best-kept secrets.

Not for long, though. Packed with new high-tech equipment, including a SMART board (interactive white board) system, HP laptops and Sony PSPs (PlayStation Portables) equipped with curriculum-based games, CAPPA's newest Neighborhood Network Center at 734 W. Fourth St. uses technology keep students engaged and interested by appealing to students of all learning styles and levels of education.

Article Photos

Leanora Holloway, 8, a student in CAPPA’s Neighborhood Network Center at 734 W. Fourth St., uses a PlayStation portable to help her learn.

Learning doesn't stop with summer

CAPPA kicked off its summer academic enrichment program June 26 at the new site. The program is just the latest addition to an array of educational offerings.

"CAPPA always looks at all the puzzle pieces and tries to put them all together to create the big picture," Academic Enrichment Coordinator Eileen Harley said.

The summer academic enrichment program is offered from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday during the summer. Students divide their time among the multimedia room and for group activity and a classroom for individual work.

"It's kind of giving kids a jump-start into the next grade," Harley said.

Funding for the program was supported by a $55,000 grant from the Williamsport-Lycoming Community Foundation, allowing CAPPA to hire instructors and purchase equipment.

The program begins with a pre-test that determines students' academic strengths and weaknesses. Results are given to CAPPA instructors, allowing them to determine students' needs. CAPPA Executive Assistant Holly Doyle noted the organization's academic programs are open to all interested families, catering to advanced students as well as special needs students and everyone in between.

"We run the full gamut," Doyle said.

"All of their instruction is data-driven. Everything that's done here is data-driven," Harley added.

Students rarely are seen using a pencil and paper.

"The instruction is technology-based," Harley said. "With the multimedia capability, the kids are interested and so it becomes fun."

Lessons are based on PLATO Learning Achieve Now Curriculum and taught by certified teachers. The curriculum is directly aligned with state standards.

Students get immediate feedback when playing PLATO-created PSP games, which end with a "progress check" in which students must answer questions and solve problems relating to the lessons or concepts they learned during the game. The games tell students immediately whether or not they chose the correct answer and progress checks are then graded by instructors.

Presenting subjects through a variety of media also allows instructors to reach out to kids who learn differently from one another, Harley added, in addition to preparing kids for the real world in which technology continues to extend its power.

In addition to the PLATO curriculum, students have the opportunity to take a digital art workshop, teaching photo manipulation and 3D animation.

More than academics

CAPPA's summer offerings also include life skills classes, including "Why Try" and "Get Real About Violence." Laura Klym, curriculum instructor, said she uses the "Why Try" class to teach students the importance of the decisions they make now in relation to their futures. A recent lesson, "The Reality Ride," related the ups and downs kids face in their lives to a roller coaster. Another lesson focused on labels and the ways people judge one another.

Klym hopes the class is empowering for students.

"They are the ones who can change their lives," she said. "It's not only how we (at CAPPA) can help them, but how they can help themselves."

CAPPA emphasizes the importance of providing positive role models for students through its instructors, tutors and other staff and volunteers.

"I believe that the basis of anything begins with building good relationships," Harley said.

CAPPA was able to reach out to more students this summer through a partnership with the Williamsport Branch YMCA by providing an academic component to the YMCA's summer day camp program.

Community effort

Summer day camp begins at 9:30 a.m. at the YMCA and runs until 3 p.m. Students attend the CAPPA program from 9:45 to 11:45, according to YMCA Youth and Teen Coordinator Elgin Bailey.

"It was an amazing opportunity to come and be a part of the new technology that they have. It's a mix of education and fun," Bailey said, adding, "A lot of our kids don't have computers at home, so to come and use a laptop is a new experience for them."

The academic component at the CAPPA site is followed by lunch at the YMCA and then a group meeting in which kids discuss life situations, followed by a fun activity or game.

"It's a pretty fun-packed day," Bailey said. "(The CAPPA program) really balances it out."

Community collaboration is one of the main reasons behind CAPPA's success, according to Executive Director Loni Gamble, who said a collaboration with Unity Christian Fellowship Church made the new Neighborhood Network Center possible. The collaboration is a way to teach kids "that people have to work together," Gamble said.

Unity Christian Fellowship Pastor Quinton Blanton said the church saw CAPPA's need for a new space as an opportunity to extend its ministry to community members in need.

"The responsibility for the church is to get out and get involved in the community, not stay in the church," he said. "When you work together, you're going to get more things accomplished. We put aside our own agendas and bills knowing that for the greater good we're going to be productive in some things we can't do on their own and they can't do on their own. We have the facility and they have the resources ... Together we can do great things."

CAPPA's summer program soon will lead into its school year program, held from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday from October through June. This program, also based on PLATO curriculum, provides homework help and tutoring for students.

Harley said CAPPA staff hope to improve students' problem-solving skills and foster a love of learning.

"What we're hoping to do with this program is inspire curiosity," she said.



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