Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 36
 
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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New Education Director and New Gear Get Young Achievers Ready for School

Dilshanie Perera

A flurry of summertime activity at Princeton Young Achievers (PYA), an academic after school program serving approximately 90 local children in grades K through 5 in three public housing neighborhoods, has readied the organization for the new school year.

Having recently appointed Ann Vershbow as its first education director, PYA looks to “enhance our curriculum component” and “work very closely with the schools,” said Executive Director Pamela Elmi, who characterizes the work students do after school as “very connected to the daytime curriculum.”

Emphasis is placed on homework help, enrichment activities, including art and science projects, one-on-one tutoring, and literacy support.

One of the major goals of the organization is “working to close the minority education gap,” and Ms. Elmi sees the new curriculum development that Ms. Vershbow will supervise as assisting in that process, along with recruiting, training, and evaluating teachers and volunteers.

A former principal at the Ethical Culture School in New York City, Ms. Vershbow said that she has been “so impressed by the passion and commitment of everyone involved in the programs, and I am eager to get started.”

PYA’s academic year begins today, Wednesday, September 9.

“I am greatly looking forward to Ann’s presence at PYA,” Ms. Elmi noted, adding that “it is such a good feeling to have that expansion” in staff. The organization is now comprised of two full-time staff members, 18 part-time teachers, and over 100 volunteers.

In addition, the organization will focus on assessing program quality and student engagement over the coming months.

While PYA is weathering the economic storm, Ms. Elmi knew that families were struggling in the current climate.

A long-time supporter of PYA, the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church partnered with the organization over the summer to collect backpacks for all students entering the second through fifth grades. The initiative was led by the Church’s Women’s Group, under Shirley Satterfield, who is also a PYA Board member.

Younger PYA students in kindergarten and first grade will get lunch bags filled with school supplies courtesy of Jack Morrison and staff of the Princeton Farmer’s Market, who are collecting bags every Tuesday in September at the market, located at the corner of Nassau and Pine Streets.

PYA will also be launching an organic gardening project called “Growing Up Green” on September 16 at Princeton Community Village. The pilot is designed to teach children about growing food, and sustainable practices, and involves a collaboration with Trenton-based non-profit Isles.

One of the organization’s unique attributes is that its three learning centers are based in the neighborhoods where students live, with the Pannell Learning Center on Witherspoon Street, the Crimmins Center at Princeton Community Village, and a third at Redding Circle.

Owing to the proximity, and the use of the garden throughout the school year, Ms. Elmi hopes that students at the Crimmins Center will want to continue their involvement with the garden project over the summer, even when PYA is not in session.

For more information about PYA, visit www.princetonyoungachievers.org or call (609) 806-4216.

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