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Programs offer students help to foster learning

By: Laura Newell, Telegraph Staff Writer
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After seeing an extra need for some children in her child’s school, one Folsom mom decided to provide a helping hand. Salwa Kasabian, of Folsom, noticed a need for extra support and attention for some students at Theodore Judah Elementary School after her own children started attending school there. “When I first came to the school and saw the needs, I wanted to help fulfill some of the needs,” Kasabian said. Kasabian is a leader for JUMP, Judah United Mentor Project, a program developed to mentor and provide a relationship with students to promote the healthy development of all children. This is the third year for the JUMP program. Kasabian said the mentor program ultimately provides constant support by caring volunteers who are “positive adult community members.” “Students receive 40 minutes of consistent one-on-one time with an adult,” Kasabian said. “Here, students can have strong adult support in their lives.” While JUMP is only a lunch program for students, a second program started to assist students after school as well. STARS, Smart Talented and Responsible Students, is a research-based after-school program provided at no cost to the families involved. STARS provided students with homework help, tutoring, a recreational activity, a healthy snack, art lessons and health education. Susan Pritchett and her daughter Jennifer volunteer as mentors for the program. “I was drawn to the program,” Pritchett said. “I used to teach second grade so to be back here with the kids feeds my soul. These kids just need love and they give us love in return. They are very appreciative.” Kasabian said approximately 20 percent of Judah’s students are English language learners and between 40 and 50 percent of Theodore Judah Elementary School students are living at or below poverty level. “The STARS program is targeted for at-risk children who don’t have food, support and/or the tools to grow in their education,” Kasabian said. “This is a way to take a child who is unsuccessful at school and give them the tools to be successful. We provide a safe, educational, loving and supportive program to students.” Currently there are 20 students from Theodore Judah Elementary School and 20 children from Blanche Sprentz Elementary School in Folsom enrolled in the STARS program. Kaitlin Vick is a program coordinator with STARS for Theodore Judah Elementary School. “The STARS program creates a lot of support for the kids that they may not otherwise receive,” Vick said. “It creates life lessons, not just academic support.” Luz Dominguez is a Folsom resident who has two children, Rafael, 9, and Adilene, 11, in the program. “For her (Adilene), I couldn’t help her with homework anymore because of the language barrier,” Dominguez said. “It has mostly been beneficial with her homework, but also because they are able to do activities.” Through the program Adilene was able to connect with a local dance studio and attend weekly dance classes at no cost. “She used to act very timid and scared, but now she has a lot more confidence in herself,” Dominguez said. “After attending STARS, both of my kid’s grades have really improved, especially in reading and writing.” Rafael said he enjoys reading and working on homework at STARS. “I like coming here because I get to spend time with my friends,” Rafael said. “I also get to have extra time and help with my homework.” Blanche Sprentz and Theodore Judah parents interested in getting their kids on the waiting list for STARS should contact the schools directly. Call Blanche Sprentz principal Jim Cagney, at (916) 985-3626 or Theodore Judah principal Canen Peterson, at (916) 983-4469. For more information on JUMP, contact Theodore Judah principal Canen Peterson, at (916) 983-4469.