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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 7, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
A Sunday to aid Cathedral’s debt
Auburn deacon loses home to fire,
weeks after death of teenage son
Federal grant lets Catholic
schools open learning centers

Seven Catholic schools in the Oakland Diocese will benefit from a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant awarded to the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Education’s Language and Literacy, Society and Culture Area. The $1.3 million federal grant will enable the schools to offer before and after school enrichment classes in on-site community learning centers.

The schools are St. Anthony, St. Bernard, St. Elizabeth, St. Jarlath, and St. Martin de Porres in Oakland, St. Cornelius in Richmond, and Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City. Asa Academy and Community Sciences Center in Oakland and Oakland Military Institute will also be serving as community learning centers.

Four of the Catholic schools— St. Anthony, St. Bernard, St. Cornelius and St. Jarlath — belong to the diocesan Catholic Schools Consortium, a joint program of the diocesan school department and diocesan school board that assists the urban schools with marketing and fundraising.

The UC Berkeley grant, which will be administered fiscally by the Prescott Joseph Center of Oakland, will enable the nine schools to offer additional academic programs to help their students meet state and local standards in such core subjects as reading, math, technology, the arts, and physical education. In addition, the schools can offer literacy and other educational services to parents.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Sandra Jewett, former consortium director. “The curriculum choices are based on what each school decides that its students need.”

The grant makes it possible for the schools to open at 6:30 a.m. for extended care, a hot breakfast, tutoring and homework help. Lunch is also funded. The after school programs, which run until 6 p.m., include a nutritious snack, homework help, math and science activities, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling and character education programs. Enrichment programs also feature music education and dance.

Sacred Heart Sister Barbara Dawson, president of St. Martin de Porres School, credits UC Berkeley’s Language and Literacy Society and Culture Area department with being a major force behind securing the federal grant.

Glynda Hull, chair, is a computer literacy expert who initiated a computer storytelling and literacy development program for middle school children in Oakland called the Digital Underground Storytelling for Youth (DUSTY). For the past two years, DUSTY has been helping St. Martin de Porres students to create i-movies about their lives which they are sharing with middle school kids in India and South Africa. Hull’s department tracks the academic progress of the Oakland students

Several months ago, Adrienne Herd, one of DUSTY’s administrators, suggested to Sister Dawson that she apply for a 21st-Century grant to help St. Martin de Porres enhance its enrichment programs. Sister Dawson invited other low-income schools in the Oakland area to join in the application process so that even more children and their parents could benefit from the before and after school program.

Meanwhile, Mark Ryan, superintendent at the Oakland Military Institute, contacted Sister Dawson about jointly applying for the grant. Eventually, a total of nine schools joined together in what became the East Bay Underserved Children’s Collaborative.

Adrienne Herd and diocesan schools consultant Patricia Marino wrote and applied for the grant, said Sister Dawson. Glynda Hull’s department will research and monitor what happens educationally for the children as they participate in the learning center programs.

St. Martin de Porres’ community learning center is offering before and after school homework help, a hot breakfast, computer literacy, drumming, guitar, African dance, hip hop, ballet, choir, a noncompetitive sports program, Spanish reading and writing, and an opera club. Students will study the stories and music of operas and sit in on dress rehearsals of operas in San Francisco.

Dominican Sister Rose Marie Hennessy, principal of St. Elizabeth School, said she is delighted with the grant which allowed its community learning center programs to open Aug. 27 for 137 students K through grade 8. Utami Setiyadi, coordinator at the St. Elizabeth center, said the classes include computer learning skills and tutoring, art and engineering, art and culture, as well as Ballet Folklorico, gardening, yoga and physical education.

Sherri Moradi, principal of St. Cornelius School, said the grant is “truly a gift. We are so fortunate.”
Besides the academic advantages, Moradi said the hot breakfast and after school snack “are a blessing” for cash-strapped families. She hopes to have the entire student body of over 100 children participating in the programs. The luxury of extended hours means that St. Cornelius can function as “a safe haven” for a longer time each day, she noted.

The grant also allows schools to remain open as community learning centers during the Christmas holidays, which will create a worry-free atmosphere for working parents.

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