Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 23
 
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
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Upcoming One-Day-Only Art Show Will Feature Works by Local Talent and Young Achievers

Dilshanie Perera

Through a program called “Creative Fridays,” Princeton Young Achievers (PYA) has collaborated with the Arts Council of Princeton to provide art-making workshops and curriculum for students enrolled in their three learning centers.

Some of the fruits of their labor will be displayed at the Valley Road School building at 369 Witherspoon Street, on Friday, June 12 from 4 to 7 p.m., with over 70 pieces on display. The event celebrates the students’ work over the past school year.

“This show really gives people a good glimpse as to what we’re about,” said PYA Executive Director Pamela Elmi, pointing out the papier-mache animal sculptures that are actually also mancala boards. “These mancala games involve math, and this project exemplifies what we do: combining the math, with the art, and the fun, in a hands-on learning experience,” she said.

Princeton Young Achievers is a non-profit organization that hosts after-school programs at Redding Circle, the Pannell Center, and the Crimmins Center, for approximately 90 local students in grades K through 5. Emphasis is given to homework support, enrichment activities like art and science projects, one-on-one tutoring, and literacy support.

Despite the summertime programming hiatus, the organization will still be hard at work preparing for the following school year.

“Our ‘Literacy for Life’ reading program has just skyrocketed, so we have definite plans to expand that,” Ms. Elmi explained, adding that all of the kindergardeners and first graders are paired with a reader from September to June for a weekly half-hour reading session. Due to the program’s success, she noted that PYA would like to have a reader assigned to all their students.

Applications to become a reader at PYA will be accepted over the summer, with volunteers receiving mandatory training. Ms. Elmi mentioned that some of the current readers would also be in attendance at the art show.

Other future goals include implementing a sustainable gardening project called “Growing Up Green,” and increasing the PYA’s staff, which currently boasts one full-time member, 18 part-time teachers, and over 100 volunteers.

As for achievements over the past year, Ms. Elmi pointed out that the learning center at Princeton Community Village was named the Crimmins Center to honor Marcy Crimmins, who recently retired from Princeton Community Housing, and who was instrumental in establishing the learning center at that site, having been “a community service advocate in Princeton for over 30 years.”

PYA has also expanded its computer labs over the past year. In addition to PCs, the centers now house iMacs, as well as computers that run Linux, thus introducing the children to the three different operating systems. “Our dream for this year is to acquire at least one smart board,” or touchscreen monitor, Ms. Elmi said.

Exposing the students to the latest technology “helps with part of our goal of closing the minority achievement gap,” Ms. Elmi remarked.

The Valley Road School building was chosen as the location for the show because of its proximity to the three learning centers, all of which are in housing neighborhoods where the students live. “That way, all of our families can walk over,” Ms. Elmi said, adding that the building is also “such a beautiful space to show the artwork.”

More information about the organization can be found at www.princetonyoungachievers.org.

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