New Season Begins for HOPE Center

Lincoln School May 2016

Coalition members of the Partners for HOPE Center held their first meeting for the new school year on Monday, September 19th at the Lincoln School.

More students are making use of the Center for after school studies and activities. Lori Hammer, HOPE executive director, told the group that the student numbers have grown with average attendance at 186 and the highest for the season is at 214 and they expect those numbers to increase through the year.

Anthony LaTour, who heads up the newly created Alternative Education Program for the school district, is holding classes in a separate area of Lincoln School. He described the new program for the Coalition, stating, “We have 18 students enrolled at the time.  Thirteen attend classes in person and five are taking their studies with us online.  He said there’s a chance more students could be enrolled.  LaTour’s time was limited as he was speaking during the school lunch break and had to return to class.  Hammer noted that his students are becoming ‘a group of their own’, as they continue in the new program.

Anita Zavala, La Tour and Hammer reported on future field trips and the ones taken this past summer. La Tour said his students will attend the Work Force Center’s annual Job Fair this week, to learn what employers will look for in skills and background during an job interview.  A trip to the Colorado Aquarium has been planned for the end of the month where students will  dissect a squid tying in to their courses on biology and ecosystems.

Hammer said HOPE summer trips included mostly local visits, including a view of what life is like as a college student at LCC, a visit to Colorado Mills and a day trip to the Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs.

Emily Neischburg described a current nature photography program for One Step Up students which will run for four weeks. “We’re working with Jill Smith, a local nature photographer.  The students will take nature-oriented pictures of nature in every corner of Lamar, learning what to look for in the town, a playground or even in their own backyard to learn how their lives connect to nature every day,” she explained.  She said these types of programs, especially involving outdoor activities, have shown that students perform better academically and are generally healthier and happier.  She noted a field trip to Bent’s Old Fort and a hike along a nature trail is set for the end of the month.

Hammer said the kid’s community garden at the center had another successful season.  Residents from the neighborhood helped with weeding and watering and would harvest the produce for family meals. Although the school district offered free meals to students in June, the program didn’t last through the entire summer.  The Lamar Methodist Church offered a Wednesday lunch and students were able to take home extra foods for their family.  About 40 students used the program according to Gail Schroeder.  Washington School is also offering a Friday backpack program where students can take home foods to help their family get through the weekend with some groceries.

Wendy Buxton-Andrade will remain as president for the school year and Connie Hill will serve as vice president and secretary. Hammer said a grant writer from Las Animas has been hired with financial help from the El Pomar Foundation, and Anthony LaTour will also use her services for grant writing for his alternative school program.  The Coalition said they would return to serving their October chili supper indoors this year, and discussed whether it should still be used as a fundraiser or as a simple means of community and family involvement in kid’s programs having just a potluck dinner.  Members are discussing those options.

By Russ Baldwin

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