Nanuet Family Resource Center Director RoseAnn Mercado made a presentation at Tuesday night’s school board meeting giving board members and those in attendance an update on some programs the center offers.
Mercado focused on two programs, an English program for students and parents on Monday nights, and a reading program for kindergarten through second graders.
The Monday night program has a group of about 20 parents who usually attend, where they learn English, going over the same lessons their children will learn in kindergarten.
“They’re learning what the kids are learning in kindergarten so they’ll be able to support their children when they go into kindergarten,” Mercado said. “Some of the kids are already in kindergarten, but they’re learning it at the same rate that the little ones are doing.”
In the parents’ class is an assistant who speaks Spanish to help the parents fully understand the lessons.
While that’s going on, there are also three groups of kids at the school: 4-year-olds, 2- and 3-year-olds and older siblings. They are broken up into groups and are supervised by different teachers. There are about 12 students who regularly show up in the 4-year-old group, and they meet with a Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) teacher.
The roughly six to 10 toddlers are watched by a member from AmeriCorps, and the 15 to 20 older siblings are supervised by a different member of AmeriCorps. For the siblings, they offer homework help, as well as provide donated books, so they go home with books.
Mercado seeks out the families invited to the program from the list of those who apply for UPK in Nanuet. She said there are roughly 100 kids that apply for UPK, but only 43 slots. She gets the list of students who aren’t selected in the UPK lottery and calls to see what their plans are for pre-kindergarten and to let them know about the program. She also invites the parents of kindergarten students for whom English is a second language.
“We don’t have just Hispanic families. We have a group of Indian families, we’ve got a family from Russia,” she said. “It’s a melting pot, and it’s really interesting. They’ve grown really close. So when they come into school, they’re going to know each other. They know Nanuet. They’re a part of Nanuet now, and the parents in that are in kindergarten that were a little bit shy of going to a PTA meeting or doing anything in school, they’re in that building now. They own it on Monday nights.”
She said the program received a grant from United Way, which is used to pay the two UPK teachers, one who teaches the pre-kindergarten students and one who teaches the parents. The rest are volunteers.
Mercado added that a group of BOCES students is going to come film the program in May because of its uniqueness, and County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef is also going to stop by to observe the program.
“What’s really nice about it is the fact that kids who were not going to have the opportunity to go to preschool at least have some experience, and in the building they’re going to be in,” said Nanuet School Board President Anne Byrne.
The Reading Academy program runs 8 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at George W. Miller Elementary School, and has about 20 students in it from kindergarten to second grade. The program is for ESL students as well.
Mercado said the students in that program come in on those two mornings and use a computer program that helps them learn to read, and the program runs based on the students’ individual abilities, so they can learn at their own pace.
She also received a grant from Orange & Rockland for that program for food. Mercado said many of the students aren’t in the free breakfast program, so the program uses that money for breakfast. After they’re done on the computers, the students go into the cafeteria to eat. Mercado said they’re big fans of the morning “cupcakes,” otherwise known as muffins, in the cafeteria. She said that in addition to helping the kids learn to read, it’s also helping them feel more at home in the classroom and around their classmates.
“They sit there, they have a lot to talk about,” she said. “They like coming to school.”