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Jose Vazquez is project director and F. Sunnie Frazier is site project director of a new afterschool enrichment program at Livingston Junior High School that is being funded by a grant in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Deep East Texas. Photo by Emily Banks WootenBy Emily Banks Wooten
An afterschool enrichment program at Livingston Junior High School will soon be underway and is being funded by a grant through the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Deep East Texas. The opportunity has been awarded to Livingston, Crockett and Nacogdoches.
Worth $750,000, the grant will be distributed over five years and will fund a project director and core subject tutors.
The Nita M. Lowey 21st Century CLC is a program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.
Jose Vazquez, a 2010 graduate of Livingston High School, has been named project director. Vazquez is a 2015 graduate of the University of Texas with a bachelor of science in biology. He said all through college he wanted to be a pediatrician until he did some internships at hospitals and realized that was not the career for him.
“I began working summer camps for a non-profit and I absolutely loved it. I worked there for three years and then the grant was not renewed. I went to the YMCA of Greater Williamson County. In 2018, I moved to Houston and went to the YMCA of Greater Houston. I worked with 21st Century as site director for three years,” he said, adding, “I always knew I wanted to work with children.”
F. Sunnie Frazier, of Woodville, has been named the site project director. A third-generation educator, Frazier said she comes from a lineage of educators. “The Fraziers are farmers and educators.” Educated at Prairieview A&M University, Georgetown University and Columbia University, Frazier has been an educator, a Christian school principal and a consultant and has worked in New York, Maryland and Houston. “Math is my focus,” she said.
The afterschool enrichment program will be from 3:30-6:30 p.m. weekdays on the junior high campus. On Mondays through Thursdays, students will have strategy and academic support where they will work on homework and receive tutoring. The students will have a light dinner and will also participate in enrichment activities such as passport to manhood, character development, arts and garden club. On Fridays, the entire three hours will be spent on enrichment activities.
“This will be academically focused and intentional. We’re incorporating project-based learning. Everything we do is intentional, including the selection of students,” Vazquez said. He said the primary goals are to increase academics, specifically math and reading scores, then increase attendance and finally, increase parent involvement.
“We’re focusing on sixth-graders because we want three consecutive programs but we’re not eliminating seventh and eighth-graders,” Frazier said.
“That strategy was actually suggested by Ms. Frazier and Mr. Nettles (Junior High Principal Jared Nettles). That’s why they’re targeting that group,” Vazquez said.
Frazier and Vazquez have been busy working with teachers, specifically the ELA (English Language Arts) teachers, as they said Nettles’ big push is reading.
“We encourage siblings of our scholars, which is what we call our participants,” Frazier said, adding that that was Vazquez’ idea.
Frazier said a six-week program will be offered in the summer at which time students will go on field trips, as well as participate in STEM courses (science/technology/engineering/math), art and substantive topics.
“The bonus is that we provide a light dinner and transportation. Dr. Hawkins is giving us a lot of support,” Frazier said of the LISD superintendent.
“One of the rules though is no pull-outs. Attendance is key. We have to have them there consistently. We get graded just like the school gets graded. We get to stay as long as the students are improving,” Frazier said of the five-year grant. “We’re here to help the school, support the school district, Mr. Nettles and the students.”
“Our priority is academics, then ESL (English as a second language) students and new arrivals and lastly, behavior and social skills,” Vazquez said.
Another important component of the program is providing outreach events for parents in the community.
“We will provide adult education for families that need it, ESL, fitness, nutrition, whatever the needs are. We’ve hired a family engagement specialist to serve the program,” Frazier said.
They also said there will be all types of activities to get parents on the campus.
“This is also an opportunity to reach out to those parents who can’t attend things in the mornings or during the work day,” Vazquez said. “We want this to be an extension of the school.”
“We’re wanting to partner with groups in the community,” Frazier said, adding that the first big project will be forming a garden club.
Frazier said there are still several spots open for employment for those who are innovative and like to work with kids. She added that they are committed to having bilingual youth development specialists.
The program is free and there is space available for 150 students. Two to four teachers are expected to be hired.
“I think we’re going to have space for everyone interested,” Frazier said. “My direct line is 936-328-2120 Ext. 6110. For any questions about the program, please call me.”