Early start, extra spark, eager kids
Posted on 8.18.11
By Denise Dick
Five-year-old Akeim Smith writes each letter of his name, ensuring every pen stroke is as precise as his little hand can manage.
It’s something he couldn’t do before he started working with Felicia Fuller, a parent partner with D&E Counseling Center’s SPARK — Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids — program.
It works to prepare children for kindergarten. Akeim will be in kindergarten this year at Williamson Elementary School and says he’s looking forward to it.
Fuller comes to Akeim’s South Side home monthly, reading to him, working with his letters and other skills. Akeim’s parents, Petrchann and Oliver Smith, attend the sessions, too, and work with their son in between her visits.STRIP-->STRIP-->
“It’s helped him with his skills and helped him progress,” Oliver said.
Petrchann has been working with Akeim on the alphabet, colors, his address and birthday.
Akeim says green is his favorite color and a story about an ambulance is his favorite book. Big brother Cinile Worsley, 10, and a sixth-grader at Wilson Middle School, picks “Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Ugly Truth” as his favorite.
Cinile is never far away during Akeim’s visits with Fuller.
Fuller and Akeim sit at a little “Toy Story” table to do their lessons.
“When I got here today, he had a big smile on his face,” she said.
Fuller started working with Akeim last fall. The SPARK program follows children for the year before they attend kindergarten.
“I’ll be there on the first day, too,” Fuller said.
Parent partners recruit children through Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Program, the schools and by posting fliers in stores and libraries.
“He’s in MYCAP, and he had one of the fliers in his backpack,” Petrchann said. “I read it and it seemed interesting so I called.”
Services and materials are provided free to the families. The Raymond John Wean Foundation provides funding to D&E for SPARK.
It’s been in the Warren city schools for two years, but this year marks the first for Youngstown city schools.
Children who would attend either Williamson or Taft elementary were eligible for the program.
While no data is available yet for Youngstown, Gary Baughman, early-childhood supervisor at D&E, said children in Warren’s program scored higher on tests than their counterparts who weren’t enrolled in SPARK.
Joe Shorokey, D&E clinical director, said the program likely will expand to additional schools either in Youngstown or suburbs.
“We believe we have the capacity to serve more,” Shorokey said.
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