By Pixie Sulser
Amidst budget cuts and other monetary concerns, Ramona High School and Montecito High School received a bit of good news when it learned that the federally funded grant known as ASSETS (After School Safety & Enrichment for Teens) would be renewed for another five years providing $250,000 to Ramona High and $108,000 to Montecito High to continue their after-school program.
“We were shocked and excited when we learned that we would receive the grant again,” said Lisa Filice, College & Career Center director for both schools. “We had been told that we had less than a 10 percent chance of renewal because the program doesn’t like to fund the same schools over and over. In fact, we had pretty much braced ourselves and were preparing our students for life without the grant.”
The grant pays for numerous programs at RHS including the College & Career Center, after-school tutoring, fitness classes, credit recovery opportunities, study sessions for Advanced Placement tests, SAT preparation, driver’s education classes, band and athletic camps, after school bus transportation as well as college field trips.
“This grant has allowed us to enhance the high school experience for all of our students,” said Principal Tony Newman. “We are thrilled to be included again, and I think it is a testament to the creative and effective ways we have spent the monies the past years.”
ASSETS Facilitator Becky Ayers, a teacher at Olive Pierce Middle School, is proud of the fact that in the program’s first five years, it earned recognition at the county level for the College & Career Center, “the seamless communication and transitions from the regular day to after school,” the 2012 Career Day and the program’s attendance.
At Ramona High the after-school program is called Bulldog CONNECT. The term CONNECT stands for Connectng Ourselves: Navigating, Networking, Experiencing, Challenging for Tomorrow.
An early accolade came in 2009 when the RHS girls lacrosse team, a CONNECT offering at one time, was recognized as a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) team. They are now in their fifth year as a varsity sport.
Ayers explained that there are strict requirements for maintaining the grant, the largest being attendance.
“For the $250,000 grant we must hit 10 percent attendees, which translates to 25,000 students. Each time a student attends a class, they are counted as an attendee. For the past three years we have exceeded our number, and last year 96 percent of our population attended an offered program at least once.”
However, noted Ayers, declining enrollment creates a problem, because although the high school has less than 2,000 students, it is expected to hit the same number of attendees as institutions with double that enrollment. The program is also required to incorporate student support and input so “we hold ‘think tanks’ where students create ideas for new courses and offer suggestions as to what days certain classes should be held,” said Ayers. “We must have a program that supports the regular instructional day and involves the community members.”
Over the next five years the plan is to continue providing programs the students and their families have come to depend on as well as look for new ways to support students.
“A big addition we have been discussing is a freshmen support program of some kind to help with the transition from middle school to high school and a DIY (Do It Yourself) class that would include monthlong sessions in cooking, shopping on a budget as well as basic auto maintenance,” shared Ayers. “Now that we know we have the grant, the planning can start!”
At MHS, the first five years of the grant provided opportunities such as college field trips, credit recovery, the creation of a College & Career Center and numerous enrichment activities including yearbook, photography, computer design and sports teams.
Principal Dave Lohman sees the second cycle of grant funds as a way to “continue the great programs we have in place and to put heavier focus on credit recovery strategies.”
The MHS program will have the moniker LOOP next year, representing the Leadership, Opportunity, Outreach Program.
Neither school will receive the additional $25,00 a year previously received for bus transportation.