On the Ramona High School campus after the final bell of the day rings, friends are gathering to answer the all-important question of what they are going to do after school. A lot of the time the answers remain the same: sleep, watch TV, talk on the phone and, unfortunately for some, find trouble to get into.
Now, the high school has a plan for enriching those often boring and critical hours right after school. Appropriately called Bulldogs CONNECT, the new program strives to bring students together in an effort to enhance and extend their learning experience. Through a $250,000 grant, RHS can provide both necessary and elective courses that are no cost to students or their parents.
The funding, renewable for up to five years, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s ASSETs (After-School Safety and Enrichment for Teens) grants. Last summer, RHS was one of the more than 30 schools in the county to receive the payout. And it comes at the perfect time. With budget cuts eliminating some of the more creative classes and already full schedules, students may not have the chance to delve into their hobbies. Now, they can.
Students were consulted via survey in early January as to what classes they would be interested in. Among the results were photography, street art, intramural sports, outdoor adventure and more to come.
RHS will also apply some of the grant money to classes that will offer students the extra help they need. For example, tutoring courses, CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) prep, and even a chance to earn credit for past failed classes are all being offered after school.
Jessica Dodson, a recent California Polytechnic State University graduate, is the grant’s facilitator. Having grown up in Ramona, she remembers not having much to do after school.
“There’s very little for high school students to do after school. These programs will give them activities to participate in and will encourage their growth,” she said. “Our goal is to really have classes that students are excited about, so it creates a buzz and kids stay off the street and have the chance to experience personal development or career exploration.”
Educators have several outcomes they would like to achieve. They hope students will become more connected to school, which may lead to better attendance, improved homework completion and lower dropout rates. They hope to see students connect to each other and learn better social and communication skills. They also hope that, because students have somewhere to be, doing something they enjoy, that outside temptations will be avoided. And, lastly, they hope through the program students will increase their physical activity and their knowledge of health and nutrition.
Assistant Principal Dr. Kathryn Gunderson helps oversee the grant and is pleased with the way it is coming to life.
“It will allow us to offer academic and elective opportunities for students that they may not have room for in their daily class schedule,” she said. “We will be able to offer Saturday school, and test prep programs, as well as extended library hours, online credit recovery and tutoring.”
Courses started on Monday. Most start immediately after school and run either 11/2 hours or 3 hours. The courses last six weeks and then a new session starts where students are able to enroll in different courses or start all together.
In tandem with the ASSETs grant, RHS received a separate grant that will provide transportation. Buses will be taking students home at no charge at 4:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. For a complete list of courses and how to enroll, visit the RHS website at www.ramonausd.net/rhs and click the “CONNECT” tab. Also, parents can contact Jessica Dodson at 787-4093 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.