PORTSMOUTH — Project Bear entered its second year with the same difficulty that the schools did, trying to keep their program up and running amongst COVID restrictions.
Hayley Venturino the Project BEAR Coordinator at the Shawnee State University Children’s Learning Center said that Project BEAR is an AmeriCorps-funded program, with 14 members providing literacy instruction to close to 1000 students in head starts and public schools in Scioto County. Last year was their first year and because of COVID, they had to finish with online book reading, but the good news is that they did get to finish.
“We are only in three schools this year, Children’s Learning Center, Notre Dame and Wheelersburg. Next year, we are already up to eight schools and we are really looking forward to next year,” Venturino said.
Venturino shared for this year, services have really been the same, they are providing direct literacy instruction to the student and if it was a situation where the school had to go virtual, they are assisting the teachers in providing virtual services.
Project Bear is an AmeriCorp funded project that hires adults, retired teachers, and they have students from Shawnee State, but they don’t have to be a college student from Shawnee. Venturino says that they are housed at the University, but they are a separate program under the Community Outreach umbrella.
“We had a plan this year for Project Bear, we were wanting to expand and be in even more classrooms and because of the pandemic, we had to alter that plan,” Venturino said. “We were lucky that we were just able to operate, several of the AmeriCorps programs had to shut down because schools would not let them in. We were one that was able to operate and able to expand during the pandemic, which is rare.”
Venturino continued, “The people that work in the program are volunteers, but they are paid volunteers, they do receive a living stipend and they also receive an education credit, so they can use it to pay on existing student loans or if they are a current student, they can pay on their tuition, they can also use it to buy school supplies, like books, laptops, and the retired teachers are able to gift that education credit to maybe their grandchild or children that go to college, they are able to gift that credit to them.”
Project Bear is currently hiring, because one of the ways they were able to expand this year, was by offering a summer program for children that are entering kindergarten in the fall. Those students are going to do an eight-week reading camp to get them ready and caught up with everything they’ve missed. The reading camp runs from May to July and (there is a flyer from that)
They are also hiring for the next school year (2021-2022). Venturino said, “We are looking for people to serve not only the learning center, but at Green, Minford, Wheelersburg and Notre Dame Elementary. In total, we are hiring 10 for the summer will be hiring 21 for the fall.” If interested Venturino has a blog on – https://thessuclc.wordpress.com/2021/03/12/project-bear-2/
Venturino also wanted to mention that as part of their expansion that they partnered with the governor’s imagination library through Easter Seals and that they have two members who have planted little free libraries in the Pike County YMCA and in a Vinton County park.
BEAR member training includes first aid, CPR, communicable disease, child abuse recognition and prevention, LETRS: Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling Early Childhood, Brigance assessment administration and hands-on training on implementation of literacy instruction for individual students, small groups and whole groups.
AmeriCorps is a national service program administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages Americans in intensive service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads volunteer initiatives for the nation.
Project Bear hopes to continue to expand in as many ways as possible as they continue to serve in our community.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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