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The Yankee Express

United Way awards $60,000 to after-school programs

Student building a Lego MindStorm Robot

SOUTHBRIDGE: Pre-K students to seniors in high school will benefit from three programs recently designated as recipients for United Way of South Central MA funds on behalf of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education After School and Out of School grants.  
The first round of grants was specifically for out of school time programs that would benefit students in towns that have a high need for assistance to help students re-engage and rebound from almost two years of restricted learning opportunities.  United Way of South Central Mass. Executive Director, Mary O’Coin announced the grants on Monday, March 7.  “After reviewing the applications that were received the ASOST-R Grant Committee selected the following programs to receive this first round of funding.  We look forward to receiving more applications in the coming months for summer 2022 programs and next school year’s after-school programs.  These grants are making it possible to offer ‘out of the box’ thinking for students of all ages.”
Southbridge Public Schools applied for a before school “Smart Start” program for Pre-K to second-grade students at Eastford Road Elementary School.  The purpose of this program is to offer families a before-school option that will impact and increase student attendance, prepare students for their school day and enrich early literacy and social skills by be encouraging students to participate in “Play,” “Act” or “Construct” activities embedded with foundational school readiness and pro-social skills.  
The second program in Southbridge is Growing, Reaching, and Developing (GRAD).  GRAD is designed for the enrichment, empowerment, and development of high school students. This program fosters learning and awareness in the issues of food insecurity.  High school students will learn the power of growing and harvesting, the benefits of healthy eating, and the importance of eliminating hunger. The program will be held at Catholic Charities; ‘79 Elm St. location, and be run as a collaboration with Miurka Torres, Catholic Charities South County Area Administrator and Worcester based 2Gether We Eat.  Ms. Torres stated, “Catholic Charities is excited to raise awareness about food insecurities and social justice by empowering our community youth to be agents of change and transforming learned STEM knowledge into action.”
The third program will take place at the Boys and Girls Club of Webster and Dudley. Offering an onsite Robotics and Stem program provided by Our Bright Future.  Students from Webster and Dudley Middle Schools will have an opportunity to register for this robotics program, which includes entering the exciting world of programing Lego Mindstorm robotics and creating unique objects for 3D printers.  During these sessions students will also receive homework help and an opportunity to participate in planned sports activities.  OBF Founder and CEO Kwasi Acheampong stated “This is a huge win for the students of Webster/Dudley. Our robotics program has a heavy focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and allows students to learn in a fun hands-on way. Students learn how to design, build, and program a robot to complete tasks. In our 3D printing program, students create objects using 3D modeling software and then program a 3D printer to make the object.”