Holleran Center for Community Engagement

South Reading Youth Initiative News

Alvernia starts sixth year of after-school programming in South Reading

The Holleran Center has just begun its sixth year of the South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI), an after-school program for children ages 7-14 who live or go to school in downtown South Reading. 

Homework help is provided by college students, a snack is served, and then programming from various community partners occurs for the last hour in Marciano Hall at St. Peter's Church.  Alvernia University students get the chance to volunteer with the program which allows them to give back to the community and to gain experience working with children.  Alvernia Senior Kate Roesch understands the value of volunteering in the community, "It has been great coming down to South Reading, the kids are fun and it has helped to prepare me for my future career in education."

Over fifty students attend program daily.  Michelle, an SRYI participant loves coming to programming because it gives her a chance to be with friends and to do new things.  "I love coming down to programming because I can get help with my homework and do things I have never done before."

The South Reading Youth Initiative works with a variety of community partners.  On Tuesdays this fall, Junior Achievement of Greater Reading and Berks County will be providing programming.  Two bsuiness professionals, Diane Billman and John Schmoyer make their way to Alvernia through this program in order to teach the SRYI participants.

Diane Billman of Customers Bank is working with the younger SRYI children and teaching them about the city.  The program is designed to inspire the children to explore how people interact and work in a city.  During the first week, the SRYI participants learned all about planning.  They had the chance to think about where they might place things in their own imaginary city.

John Schmoyer of Silicon Laboratories is working with the older children and is teaching them about the Global Marketplace.  During the first week, he taught the children about where different products come from.  He challenged them to look around and find out where things were made.  The group took ten minutes and searched every product to discover where it was produced.  They then placed stickers on a map to get a pictorial understanding of where products are being made.

In addition to working with Junior Achievement, the SRYI is working with the Yocum Institute for Arts Education, the Da Vinci Science Center, the main branch of the Reading Public Library, the Goggleworks, and service learning classes from Alvernia University during the Fall of 2011.

Creativity Camp 2011 - "On Land, Sea, and Air: Exploring Your Superhero Within!"

Creativity Camp 2011

The Holleran Center hosted its sixth annual Creativity Camp from June 20th until July 1st.  This year's camp was themed "On Land, Sea, and Air: Exploring Your Superhero Within" and was led by Alvernia faculty member Kim Stoudt, Assistant Professor of Athletic Training.  Children from the South Reading area ages 11-14 had the opportunity to participate in camp!

Camp participants had the opportunity to explore the meaning of what a superhero is.  The campers had the chance to think about what makes a superhero, and what qualities they themselves have that embody a superhero!  Claudia, a Creativity Camp participant feels that "Superhero's are intelligent, kind, respectful, and always obey the law."  In addition the campers had a chance to explore cars, ships and planes to complete the land, sea and air experience of the theme.

Throughout the two weeks, the group toured local areas such as the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum where they had a chance to get up close and personal with a few planes.  Dr. Scott Ballantyne an Alvernia University professor who has his pilot's license also came to talk to the campers about his experiences.  In addition the camp traveled to Nolde Forest to learn about bird's flight, and toured the Daniel Boone Homestead to learn about a historical superhero.

The campers has the chance to travel to Baltimore, Maryland where they were able to explore the USS Constellation a real ship from the Civil War.  They also rode a water taxi and had the chance to check out the Maryland Science Center which currently houses an exhibit on fuel efficient cars.  Linsley, a camper, stated that "the water taxi was my favorite part of Baltimore, I had never been on a boat before and it was a lot of fun!"

The camp ended with a Closing Ceremony at St. Peters Church on South 5th Street in Reading.  The camp participants each had a chance to tell the crowd what they did during the week.  Senator Schwank and Mayor McMahon both attended the ceremony to impart words of wisdom to the participants.  The participants were all eager to talk to Senator Schwank and Mayor McMahon after the ceremony was over!

Many thanks go out to Alvernia University students, Heather Shainline, Danii Cortes, Kerry Boyle and Yanii Najarian, a senior from Lancaster Country Day School who were on hand to help out as camp counselors. 

This year's Creativity Camp had twenty two participants, ages 11-14, most of whom are active participants in the South Reading Youth Initiative after-school program.

 

Folksinger Josee Vachon performs for the South Reading Youth Initiative

Josee Vachon, a Franco-American singer and songwriter, made a special stop in downtown Reading on Thursday, February 24 to perform for the South Reading Youth Initiative.  Students from the Salvation Army after-school program were also invited to attend the concert, totaling more than one hundred children.  Vachon played for the programs as part of her concert engagement with Alvernia University

Vachon has become well-known in communities throughout the Northeast, performing as a folk artist.  A Quebec native transplanted to central Maine as a child, Vachon's traditional and original songs in French are performed with guitar, spoons, clogging, energy, and charm.

Vachon has recorded twelve solo albums in French, and two with Franco-American folk group Chanterelle.

During the performance, Vachon sang an assortment of songs in several languages including French, English and Spanish.  Her ability to intersperse these three languages and weave her personal story into the songs she played helped the local bilingual children in the SRYI program relate to her music.

Several of the children had the opportunity to perform alongside Vachon during the performance.  Eight of the SRYI students were taught how to accompany her songs by playing spoons (actual tablespoons).

Asked about playing spoons, Jarel, a SRYI participants, said "I thought that it would be easy, but it was definitely a lot harder when you actually got the spoons in your hand.  It was a lot of fun though, learning to play music with something you would never really think to use."

The children also had a chance to ask Vachon questions.  Many of them wanted to know if she could play other musicians' songs, like Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift or the Beatles.  They also had a lot of questions about how she learned to play the guitar and if she really liked to play.

She told them that she loves playing the guitar and was primarily self-taught.  She also showed them how to start by playing just one chord at a time.

These local Reading schoolchildren immensely enjoyed the concert that Vachon put on and send her special thanks for taking the time to come play for them!

 

Yocum Institute is Selected as A Winner of the "After-school Champion" Award

Students at Yocum Institute

 

The Yocum Institute for Arts Education was selected as a winner of the "Afterschool Champion" Award given out by the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Newtwork's (PSAYDN). The PSAYDN, gives out this award to those organizations who dedicate themselves to helping the community during after-school time.  The Yocum Institute was nominated by the Holleran Center for Community Engagement.  "The Institute is extremely honored to receive this award.  The Yocum Institute has been working with Alvernia University's South Reading Youth Initiative for five years and is excited to see that partnership thrive." said Susan Rohn, Director of the Yocum Institute of the award from PSAYDN.  The "Afterschool Champion" Award will be presented on March 8th during the PSAYDN annual meeting at the Harrisburg Hilton.

The Yocum Institute for Arts Education has been an integral community partner for the South Reading Youth Initiative(SRYI).  A goal of the SRYI program is to introduce participants to their creative side in the after school program, through the arts and theater.  The Yocum Institute has provided many opportunities to the SRYI participants, from the talented professionalism of the Institute's staff and logistical support.  With the assistance of the Yocum Institute, the SRYI has provided many multi-week art and theater sessions in their programming.  Workshops such as the "Imagine Workshop", a theater workshop based on "Where the Wild Things Are" and most recently a workshop on "Real Fairy Tales" have given inner city Reading children opportunities to create, act and produce on the stage.  When asked about the Institute, Jonathan, an SRYI participant said "I love going to the Yocum Institute because we always get to play fun games and do art projects."

Two caring and dedicated staff members of the Institute providing some of the instruction are Beverly and Rich Houck.  These staff always take the time to get to know the participants and interact with them throughout the workshops.  Through these programs, the SRYI participants have improved their reading, writing, and art skills while having fun.  Congratulations to the Yocum Institute for being recognized for their work in the community!

 

Senator O'Pake Visits the South Reading Youth Initiative
Senator O'Pake talks with the SRYI participants

Senator O'Pake with Alvernia University Students

Senator Michael O'Pake recently made a trip to Alvernia University to visit with fifty-three middle school participants of the South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI) after-school program.  The SRYI is an after-school program coordinated by the Holleran Center for Community Engagement at Alvernia University.  The Senator's visit was in conjunction with the SRYI Career Exploration Workshop, which is taking place on Mondays for six weeks with a variety of community professional's speaking to the children about their different jobs and career paths.  Last week, the participants spent time at the Franco Library and Learning Center at Alvernia with Sharon Neal, Library Director and her staff learning all about library careers.  The goal of the workshop is to get the children to learn more about the different careers and occupations that are available in today's world.

Senator O'Pake talked to the South Reading participants about the election process, the cost of running for office, and what occurs after you are elected.  He also talked about the voting process in the Senate, discussing with the participants what happens when a bill comes up for a vote in the Senate.  The Senator even allowed the SRYI participants to "vote" on their own bill.

The fifty-three SRYI participants were extremely excited to meet and talk to the Senator.  They had many questions for the Senator, including the difference between Democrats and Republicas.  The SRYI participants were very interested to learn that the State beverage is milk, and that the State insect is a firefly.  In addition, one participant who is very interested in politics, and who would like to run for office took time to ask questions and get the Senator's autograph after the session.

Polly Mathys talks to a SRYI participant

South Reading Youth Initiative Participates in Lights on After-School

Lights on After-School is a national event which the South Reading Youth Initiative participated in for the first time this year.  President Barack Obama and Governor Ed Rendell both made proclamations that stated October 21st, 2010 as a day to celebrate and recognize the importance of after-school programs in our communities.

The SRYI event was held in Marciano Hall at St. Peter's Church, 322 S. 5th Street, Reading.  All of the families of our 50+ participants were invited to the last hour of programming for a special event to highlight after-school safety as well as to better understand what their children do on a daily basis at the South Reading Youth Initiative.  Fifty participants and over forty family members and friends attended the event.  Also in attendance were three faculty members from Alvernia University: Dr. Kim Stoudt-Althetic Training, Dr. Tom Porrazzo - Athletic Training, and Assistant Professor Polly Mathys-Computer Information Systems.

The event kicked off with an officer from the Reading Police force who came to talk to our participants and famililes about after-school safety.  He took time to answer questions and made sure that they understood that the police force is there to support the community.

Anne Corso, Director of Education for the Reading Public Museum, was also in attendance.  Anne brought art work that participants created during a six-week Museum Exploration Workshop to display.  Family members of the participants really enjoyed taking time to view the different artwork that was made, including stained glass boxes, Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, and totem poles.

Overall the goal of the event was to inform the families, community partners, and others about the South Reading Youth Initiative.  The event was planned to bring awareness to our program and the opportunities that we are providing to our participants.  If you would like more information of the SRYI program please contact Christopher Fake at 610-568-1527 or at christopher.fake@alvernia.edu.

SRYI at Duncan's Corn Maze

South Reading Youth Initiative participants visit Duncan's Corn Maze

Fall marks the beginning of another year at the South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI) after-school program. Thanks to the Department of Justice and Congressman Jim Gerlach, the SRYI program has now increased offering four days a week to children ages 7-14 who live or go to school in South Reading. The program runs Monday-Thursday from 2:30-5:00 p.m. at St. Peter's Church. Programming start with an hour of homework help, followed by a hot meal provided by the Greater Berks Food Bank. The last hour of activities is provided by numerous community partners. Approximately 50 participants attend daily and 45 Alvernia students volunteer their time weekly.

This September, 30 SRYI participants had the chance the visit Duncan's Corn Maze in Robesonia, PA. When the participants arrived at the farm they had the chance to take a hay ride, which stopped at a working dairy farm. At the farm the participants had the opportunity to pet a few of the baby calves (above Jonathan Cartegena, 7, pets one of the calves at the Duncan farm). They learned about the milking process which they were surprised to find out must be done twice a day, with the first round starting early in the day around 4:00 a.m.

After a hay ride back to the maze, the participants split up into five groups, lead by Alvernia students Brett Ames, Danii Cortes, Heather Shainline, Andrew Wedlock,  and SRYI Program Manager, Christopher Fake, to tackle the corn maze. While the participants thought that they maze looked small, it took them over 45 minutes to find their way out. It was a fantastic day, and the participants love the opportunity to spend some time outside in the country on a nice fall day.

 

Junior Creativity Camp at the Strasburg Railroad

“All Aboard: Technology on Track” - Junior Creativity Camp 2010
Alvernia camp explores changing technology in trains

Watch a highlight video from Junior Creativity Camp 2010

Alvernia's Holleran Center for Community Engagement conducted its third annual, weeklong Junior Creativity Camp beginning Aug. 2, 2010. This year’s theme was “All Aboard: Technology on Track.”

2010 Camp participants had the opportunity to explore digital media using various technological mediums, such as podcasts and blogs. All of this was incorporated with an understanding of locomotive technology, as trains were a central part of the city of Reading and still dot the landscape. The camp aimed to teach participants about the history of the Reading Railroad, while incorporating the understanding current and future technology.

Throughout the two weeks, the group toured local sites, such as the Pagoda, where the participants got a bird’s eye view of not only the city, but also of Reading’s railroad tracks. The group also stopped by Berks Community Television (BCTV) to learn about video production and recorded their own television broadcast. In addition, they traveled to Strasburg, Pa., to tour the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and rode on an authentically restored, coal burning, steam locomotive.

A closing ceremony was held on August 6 at St. Peter’s Church on South Fifth Street, providing an opportunity for camp participants to be recognized for their participation and achievements during camp by local community leaders. The ceremony, held at 2:00 p.m., was open to family and friends, and featured Executive Director of the Hispanic Center, Michael Toledo, as the guest speaker.

This year’s Junior Creativity Camp served 20 participants, ages 7-10. Most of whom are active participants in the South Reading Youth Initiative, a signature program of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement.  Mike Nerino, Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, was the faculty instructor for camp, and was assisted by Holleran Center’s Jessica Umbenhauer (Project Coordinator), Christopher Fake (South Reading Youth Initiative Program Manager), and Meghann Burton (AmeriCorps*PACC-VISTA volunteer). Alvernia students Brett Ames, and Heather Shainline also joined the team.

The South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI), a free program designed for youth aged 7-14 who live or go to school in the South Reading area, provides after-school and summer programming supported by faculty, staff and students of Alvernia University. These programs have been generously supported by federal and state grants as well as local funders. Founded in 2006, the SRYI aims to promote continued education, mentoring and support for healthy choices through exposure to arts, culture and educational opportunities within Greater Reading.

 

Recording a newscast at Creativity Camp 2010

Exploring Digital Media with Creativity Camp 2010

Watch a highlight video from Creativity Camp 2010

The Holleran Center for Community Engagement conducted its fifth annual, two-week long Creativity Camp beginning June 21, 2010. This year’s digital media theme was called “Pod Squad: Going for the Goal.”

2010 Camp participants had the opportunity to explore digital media using various technological mediums, such as podcasts and blogs. The participants experimented with mixing boards, recording tools and video production equipment. All of this was incorporated with the 2010 FIFA World Cup 2010. Participants also had the opportunity to report on game statistics and blog their predictions for the Cup win. 

Throughout the two weeks, the group toured local media outlets such as WEEU, WFMZ, the 911 Berks Call Center, and got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Reading Movies Eleven IMAX Theater, including a viewing of Toy Story 3 in Imax 3-D. 

In addition, the group traveled to Washington D.C., to visit the interactive Newseum, and toured the Capitol building—visiting with U.S. Representative Jim Gerlach.

A closing ceremony was held on July 2 at St. Peter’s Church on South Fifth Street, which provided an opportunity for camp participants to be recognized for their participation and achievements during camp by local community leaders. The ceremony, held at 2:00 pm, was open to family and friends, and showcased the new skills and experiences that were acquired over the course of the two weeks.

This year’s Creativity Camp served 30 participants, ages 10-14, most of whom are active participants in the South Reading Youth Initiative after-school program—a signature program of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement. Mike Nerino, Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, was the faculty instructor for camp, and was assisted by Holleran Center staff Jessica Umbenhauer (Project Coordinator), Meghann Burton (AmeriCorps*PACC-VISTA), and Christopher Fake (South Reading Youth Initiative Program Manager). Alvernia students Brett Ames, Kate Roesch, and Heather Shainline also joined the staff team.

The Holleran Center for Community Engagement will also facilitate a Junior Creativity Camp 2010, held during the first week of August, for participants’ ages 7-10 years.

The South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI), a free program designed for youth aged 7-14 who live or go to school in the South Reading area, provides after-school and summer programming supported by faculty, staff and students of Alvernia University. These programs have been generously supported by federal and state grants as well as local funders. Founded in 2006, the SRYI aims to promote continued education, mentoring and support for healthy choices through exposure to arts, culture and educational opportunities within Greater Reading.

Playing Soccer at Creativity Camp 2010

 

The South Reading Youth Initiative featured on Senator O'Pake's "Report to the People" show

April 21, 2010

The South Reading Youth Initiative, a program of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement at Alvernia University, was featured on the show, "Report to the People", Senator Mike O'Pake's monthly show. The segment aired on PCN (Pennsylvania Cable Network) on Sunday, April 18 at 2:30 pm. This month's show was dedicated to reporting on Census 2010, an important initiative taking place across the country to make sure that everyone is counted.

The South Reading Youth Initiative created a day of programming centered on the history and importance of the Census. Ginny Hand, Director of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement, was featured in the segment teaching the children about the importance of counting everyone in their family. Isabel Monterrosa, a member of the Berks County Complete Count Committee, was also present to talk to the participants about the impact of the Census results on the City of Reading. Students were able to fill out a sample Census form so that they could take the message home to their own family.

Please visit Senator O'Pake's website to full the full episode of the April 2010 "Report to the People". The South Reading Youth Initiative is featured approximately one third of the way through the program.

 

Congressman Gerlach with SRYI Participants

Alvernia receives $600,000 federal grant to support growing inner-city program

December 7, 2009

Alvernia University held a news conference on Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, at 10 a.m., as U.S. Congressman Jim Gerlach announced a special $600,000 grant from the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to support expansion of the South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI).

The SRYI is an innovative youth program for Reading’s inner-city students ages 7 -14, and is funded completely by grants and the support of Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement.

The initiative began in 2006 when a group of community leaders expressed mutual concern regarding the attrition rates in the Reading School District and the correspondingly disappointing rates of college attendance (specifically among the Hispanic and Latino populations). Reading Mayor Thomas McMahon, Senator Michael O’Pake, and Jonathan Encarnacion of the Reading’s Hispanic Center joined together with Alvernia President Thomas F. Flynn, and representatives from the Jesuit Center in Wernersville to discuss a solution.

“The group also recognized that no after-school programs existed in the South Reading area that provided a ‘safe haven’ for children in the after-school hours, allowing them to stay committed to their education and make healthy choices during their critical decision-making years,” said Dr. Flynn. “The linkage between these two points led us to make some obvious conclusions, and to form the South Reading Youth Initiative.”

Initial funding for the SRYI program came in the form of a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, secured with the support of Sen. O’Pake. Within a month, the Holleran Center for Community Engagement held its first Creativity Camp with a week’s worth of activities for 27 inner-city students in grades 2 - 8. Now in its fourth year, the SRYI has touched the lives of hundreds of children and their parents, with programming designed to guide area students to personal achievement, social responsibility, and moral integrity through mentoring, the arts, and educational activities.

“The program currently has more than 25 community partners, and has received funds from still many others, including Jerry and Carolyn Holleran, for whom the Holleran Center is now named,” said Ginny Hand, Director of the Holleran Center.




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