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After-school program provides some low-income families with homework help

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A brand new after-school program focuses on homework and academic assistance.  In October, Villa Maria College teamed with the Town of Cheektowaga to being an after-school services program for second graders from the Union East Elementary School and Mary Queen of Angels School.  WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley says the program is designed to support children from low-income families.

The cheerful sounds of second grade students from Union East Elementary School greeting Villa Maria College president Sister Marcella Garus.  The children offered her a group hug. The after-school program was the creation of two Felician Sisters.   

"What happened with this is Sister Paul and Sister Fredrica came to me and they asked does Villa have any space for something like this, and I said well why not," said "We also have a commitment to education. So we are collaborating now. We are providing the space here at Villa Maria College."

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Villa Maria College campus off Pine Ridge Road in Cheektowaga. Inside young students gather for an after-school program.

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Union East second grader in the after-school program at Villa.

This programs offers low-income families an extra boost with their child's learning.  Each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays students arrive on the Villa campus off Pine Ridge Road.

"There's all of these kinds of graduation rate and all of this other think, and we would like to do something about that, and it's never too early to start, and so this after-school program is really, really wonderful -- giving some students that need that extra help," said Sister Marcella.

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Union East second graders head into their after-school class at Villa.

Sister Paul Marie  and Sister Mary Fredrica are the co-directors of the program.  Sister Mary Fredrica is a former catholic school principal for over 30-years, currently serving as an assistant principal at Our Lady of Victory School in Lackawanna.  Sister Fredrica and her colleague are devoted to helping these young children succeed. 

"I think Sister Paul and I have for their welfare and concern.  They'll say 'sister we love you' and I say, but I love you more and want you to be successful," said Sister Fredrica.

During this after school session Union East second graders work on computers, get help with their homework, enjoy some snacks and receive some extra reading time.

"The reading programs are more prevalent than their math programs. They seem to be more on task with their math and more self-starters in that regard," noted Sister Fredrica.  

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Union East second graders gather in a classroom for their after-school session at Villa.

"Actually, I have some who are very strong in the reading and know their terms very well and then I have some that are weak in the math," said Sister Paul Marie.  She said students are give exercises and math quizzes. "And they compete against each other in a good way to see who is going to be done first. And then we credit the amount of time it took them, but also how many mistakes they have, so then we are getting them to get those facts down faster and faster and that's helping them when they are working on their math skills." 

Instruction includes Common Core to help the students move along in their school work.

"What I see is the strong foundation.  So in my heart, I believe, if these students are good in reading and good in math, those Common Core are going to fall into place for them," said Sister Paul.

"What I see is the strong foundation. So in my heart, I believe, if these students are good in reading and good in math, those Common Core are going to fall into place for them," said Sister Paul.

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Student works on his homework in the after-school program at Villa.

"We do math exercises  we use math manipulates with them. We are actually supporting the teachers in every which way with the Common Core," stated Sister Fredrica.   

Sister Paul Marie  and Sister Mary Fredrica researched another after school program to create the one they are leading.  With help from the Town of Cheekotwaga that offered  needed school supplies.

A recent report issued by The Afterschool Alliance of New York noted that New York State is no longer a top ten for afterschool participation.  The 'American After 3 PM' survey found that demand far exceeds supply.  

"We get to play on the computer and it's fun and because I love the teachers," a response from one of the second graders. "We get to read books and have snacks," said another student.

"We get to play on the computer and it's fun and because I love the teachers," a response from one of the second graders. "We get to read books and have snacks," said another student.

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Union East second grader in the after-school program at Villa.

And although this program just started for these Union East students in October. They students are already benefiting. One of the mother's told the sisters her daughter is now "soaring" in her school work.

"Because we get to do fun things here, especially we get to play with the computers and do our homework her," noted another second grader.   

The sisters are already talking about expanding this program and hoping to have more  space next year.

Villa president Sister Marcella says with so many children living near the college in poverty  the need his high. "Because we are in an area where there is a lot of poverty," said Sister Marcella. "So this is our commitment to help the poor as much as we can."

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