Legislators Tour Nationally Recognized STEM Learning Afterschool/Summer Program
Front row left to right: Dr. Thomas Meyer, Lehigh Carbon Community College; Laura Saccente, PSAYDN; Carmen M. Medina, Pennsylvania Department of Education; Shileste Overton Morris, Center for Schools and Communities; Ali Rhoades-Hobb, staffer PA State Rep. Mike Tobash
Back row left to right: Paul Svoboda, Pennsylvania Department of Education; PA State Rep. Mindy Fee; PA State Sen. Ryan Aument; Jared Solomon, staffer U.S. Sen. Bob Casey; Jennifer Rinehart, Afterschool Alliance; Steve Williams, representative of PA State Rep. Jake Wheatley; PA State Rep. Jerry Knowles; PA State Sen. John Yudichak; U.S. Rep. Joe Barletta; PA State Rep. Doyle Heffley
As state and national legislators increasingly recognize the educational value of high quality afterschool STEM programming and summer learning opportunities, a special tour took place at Schools and Homes in Education (SHINE) Afterschool Program in Jim Thorpe, Pa.
On August 10, Congressman Lou Barletta, the Pennsylvania Afterschool Caucus leadership team, Pennsylvania Department of Education staff and PSAYDN visited the program to view a holistic approach to STEM education in a forum with students, parents, county leadership and state legislators.
"STEM learning occurs in afterschool and summer programs across Pennsylvania, inspiring our next generation of innovators," said PSAYDN director Laura Saccente. "Afterschool programs are ideal to encourage this exploration. Today we are pleased to recognize the great work SHINE is doing in the field."
The Lehigh Carbon Community College Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE 21st Century After-School Program is a community success story. The achievement lies in how a community’s grassroots prevention efforts through a quality afterschool program – along with effective early childhood programs – are increasing educational attainment, preventing juvenile crime, and having a life-long impact on the communities and families it serves.
The guests learned about the seamless transition experienced by children from the school day program to the afterschool program. Parents talked about program benefits and how STEM plays an important role in the curriculum; and all experienced Mr. Robotic, a 5-foot tall robot, created by middle school students. Speakers included David Reinbold, Carbon Career and Technical Institute Administrative Director; Dr. Thomas Meyer, Lehigh Carbon Community College Vice President; U.S. Rep. Joe Barletta (R-11); PA State Sen. John Yudichak (D-14); Laura Saccente, PSAYDN Director; Rachel Strucko, Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE Program Director; and Rose McGlone, SHINE Program Home Visit Teacher.
"As early as 12 or 13 years of age, youth are faced with big choices about which subjects to take to achieve certain skill sets. Choosing to study STEM keeps their career options open. But even if they don’t work in one of these fields, strong STEM skills are critical to a well-rounded education," Saccente added.
News Coverage: Legislators Touring Nationally Recognized STEM Learning Afterschool/Summer Program
U.S. Rep. Barletta – "These are the kids who would be dropping out or might not pass the next class. Here they are building robots," U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, said while watching a 5-foot silver creation with eyes of digital blue lights wheel around the Carbon Career and Technical Institute in Jim Thorpe.
"It needs to be an example not only for Pennsylvania but for our country," Barletta said. "The best thing we can do for America is to change the lives of the children."
PA State Sen. Yudichak – "We know the track record. It’s not a program about possibilities. It’s about the data," said state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, who has teamed with Barletta to promote and seek funding for SHINE.
"It is very important that they understand those dollars are well spent. It’s a great investment and the return on investment in the inspiration of these children is worth it," Yudichak said.
Laura Saccente, PSAYDN – "Let us go beyond today and think about the future,” Saccente said. “What will it take to ensure all Pennsylvania children and youth have access to these types of programs? What steps can we take tomorrow to bring that vision closer to reality?"
U.S. Rep. Barletta – Congressman Lou Barletta, who has been an advocate for the program since 2011, said that since his first visit to the Panther Valley SHINE center, "I was a believer."
"After seeing the SHINE program, it is exactly what we need to do to change the lives and direction of our children," he said.
"So often we talk about dealing with crime that we have in our communities, but we have to look beyond that. We have to change the lives of our children and the next generation and this program has proven that for over 10 years. This program works. This program is an example of what we need to do."
"We need to make sure funding is there and to increase the funding and replicate this program,” he continued. “This will change the lives of our children."
PA State Sen. Yudichak – Like Barletta, Yudichak has been an advocate of the SHINE program since he became a senator, taking up the charge of the late Sen. James Rhoades, who helped move this program through its infancy.
"It’s always inspiring to see the children of SHINE excited about education and to talk to the children and their parents and see how much it empowers them and invests them in the education of their child," he said.