School’s out for summer

By JULIE DUDGEON

Striders Academic Coordinator

September to June – time has flown. The books are now closed, chairs have been placed atop desks and students have spilled out of school doors in excitement over the carefree days of summer.

For Chautauqua Striders, it has been a year of challenges but also one of growth and great opportunity. Tutoring, mentoring, community and Hispanic outreach, as well as track and field athletic programs served approximately 2,000 young people in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

This year, Chautauqua Striders employed approximately 85 people, full- and part-time. Of those, 76 were hired to provide tutoring at 25 different sites for students in grades K-12. Assistance was also available for older individuals preparing to take their GED (General Educational Development) tests for high school equivalency diplomas; ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) military service qualification tests; TABE (Testing for Adult Basic Education) tests designed to meet pre-employment requirements; and PSAT, SAT and ACT college entrance examination tests.

Chautauqua Striders honored tutors by hosting its second annual Tutor Recognition evening at the Elk’s BPOE, 263 Club in Jamestown. After a light supper, those attending were introduced and thanked by their respective academic coordinator for their extraordinary dedication to students, during what has been a transitional year in education. New York state’s implementation of Common Core Curriculum standards greatly intensified subject material being taught in elementary and middle schools, in particular. Teachers, parents and tutors alike were asked to adapt to new curriculum and heightened academic expectations. High school tutors worked tirelessly to help students meet the demands of New York State Regents exams and graduation requirements.

Mentor, teacher, counselor – Chautauqua Striders tutors wore all those hats as they helped guide students through their rigorous academics with dedication and enthusiasm. For many, this was not just a job, but also a passion.

One tutor said, “It was such a humbling experience to provide the one-on-one attention and assistance that a lot of these children need. It was awesome to see how much the students enjoyed coming to Striders and actually looked forward to it, as well. They felt they were part of something which was an extremely positive experience for all.”

Another said, “I am very proud to be part of such a terrific organization. I am amazed at the depth of the Striders program and the level of outreach to the community.”

Finally, another offered, “The most enjoyable aspect of being a Striders tutor is the opportunity to teach. The relationship opportunity is also a plus for the student.” She stated further, “When you ‘unwrap’ each of their (the students’) gifts, they are encouraged to trust you, take risks and persevere.”

Students, like Nick, said, “I wish Striders was everyday,” because tutors do make a difference.

Chautauqua Striders has always placed great emphasis on having academic enrichment, mentoring, and outreach programs work together closely to make sure students succeed academically and their families receive the supportive assistance they require. Chautauqua Striders Mentoring matched youth (mentees) in grades two through 12, with caring adults (mentors) willing to volunteer their time and their friendship. Whether in a school-based or community setting, mentors were able to share their life experiences, provide direction and guidance for personal growth, and offer new experiences designed to help strengthen their mentees’ self-esteem, by developing important and lasting relationships with them. Students in this program were often further referred to Chautauqua Striders tutoring or outreach programs, as necessary. Middle and high school Hispanic students new to this area received additional assistance as they transitioned to life in a different country and culture.

In an example of this collaborative effort, Chautauqua Striders Mentoring and Alternative Placement Program/Transition Team recently teamed up to supply prom dresses for young ladies. Thanks to community donations, the girls selected more than 100 beautiful gowns along with accompanying shoes and purses, at no charge. Students from Jamestown High School, Chautauqua Lake Central School, Falconer Central School, Frewsburg Central School, Maple Grove Jr./Sr. High School and Southwestern Central School participated. If beaming smiles could be considered a testament, the give-away was a huge success. Many thanks to everyone who donated dresses, shoes, and accessories and to Esquire Cleaners for providing cleaning services at no cost.

Along with its other programs, Chautauqua Striders has remained true to its roots as a track and field club for youth, by offering many options for healthy exercise, as well as competition. During the summer months, youngest athletes participate in summer development where they learn about the sport of track and field with an emphasis on having fun. Older and more experienced youth have the opportunity to refine their athletic talents and abilities through more rigorous and intensive training. With hard work and dedication, they may qualify to compete in national and Junior Olympic meets sanctioned by the USA. Track and Field Association (USATF). Finally, the Athletic Club, designed for adults, encourages regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Dates, times, registration forms and competition results can be found by calling David Reinhardt at 488-2203 or on Chautauqua Striders website at www.chautauqua-striders.org.

Beginning in 1979 as a simple track club whose mission was to offer a positive outlet for youthful energy, Chautauqua Striders has been transformed into an all-encompassing network, specifically aimed at enriching the lives of young people and their families. More information about upcoming events, schedules and programming can be found by visiting www.chautauqua-striders.org. Even though times have changed over the last 34 years, Chautauqua Striders will always be, “dedicated to the mentoring and guidance of youth through education, advocacy and athletics.”