Local program gives students jump start for school year

John Dupont / Contributing Writer
Belle Rose Middle School teacher Andrea Truxillo assists high school students on algebra equations during the Back to School Refresher program at the Lemann Center.

The next school year begins Aug. 8 in Donaldsonville, but some students got a jump start last week through a city-sponsored program.

More than 200 students took advantage of a Back to School Refresher Program to brush up on the math, reading, language arts, and science skills during the fifth annual event at the Lemann Center.

The program offered something for all ages. Teachers read stories to incoming kindergartners, some elementary students took received refreshers on language arts, and high schoolers brushed up on algebra.

"We want to make sure as a community to give them the boost they need to get back into school," District 1 Ascension Parish School Board member Robyn Penn-Delaney said. "We have more than 35 volunteers for this event, and the number of students increased every night.

"Everyone here is already thinking about getting back to school, so the mental preparation is already in place," she said.

The program volunteers included teachers, retired educators, paraprofessionals, and community residents.

Aside from free instruction from certified teachers, the city provided the supplies for the students, which were given to them to take home for the school year. All students received free T-shirts for attending the event.

Former Ascension Parish teacher Brenda Cost worked with students during the week. Cost remembered how she and other educators would spend the first nine weeks of the school year bringing students up to speed before they introduced new lessons.

"Once you're a teacher, you're always a teacher," said Cost, who taught more than 20 years in the Ascension Parish school system. "This is a great way to give back to my profession."

It's not only the teachers who give back.

Members of the faith-based community devised the concept for the event, which included classes in different churches throughout the city.

The number of students at different sites led the groups to seek help from the city, which took over organization of the event. All students and instructors have converged at the Lemann Center since the second year of the event.

The city picks up 99 percent of the costs, Delaney said.

It's well worth the effort, according to Mayor Leroy Sullivan.

"This is a way to give to the kids, who are the future of our city," he said. "This program gets their minds thinking and gets them ready to go back to school, and it gives them the opportunity to get with teachers who will do all they can do to make sure they're a able to function at a high level once school starts."

Sullivan sees the program as something more than just a refresher course.

The program also helps nurture the city's next generation.

"Anything that raises the awareness of education and gives them more motivation is good for the city," Sullivan said. "It's exciting to see the kids participating and willing to learn and you hope this carries over after the school year and that they can become successful men and women for our community.

"I can't thank the volunteers who have willingly come out for five nights," he said. "It's their help that makes this event a success."