South Seneca Grateful to Receive Grants

South Seneca Elementary and Middle Schools recently received three grants, two from the Community Foundation of Tompkins County’s Ujeni Fund and one from the Seneca County Youth Bureau Golf Tournament. Elementary Principal Margarete Couture recently received a $2,140.30 grant from the Seneca County Youth Bureau Golf Tournament Grant to benefit the elementary school’s “backpack program”. The backpack program, in its second year, provides students with food for weekends and holidays. Each Friday, a backpack full of food is brought home by the over thirty students this program serves. Principal Couture states, “South Seneca Elementary school students experience disproportionate levels of poverty and we have an alarming increase in the number of students arriving at school unprepared to learn due to hunger. South Seneca administrators and staff have partnered with community organizations (that include the Seneca County Children’s Committee, the Ovid Federated Church Women’s Christian Association and the Ovid-Willard Lion’s Club) to pilot “The Backpack Program” designed to ensure students have healthy, child-friendly food on weekends, and arrive to school Monday ready to learn.” A kindergarten student was so excited about receiving her weekly bags of food, she started calling them her ‘happy bags’. When it was her turn to speak at ‘sharing time’, she couldn’t wait to tell her friends about her ‘happy bags’ and how much she loved having food she could fix for herself on the weekend. Michael J. Whirtley, Seneca County Youth Bureau Director, awarded the grant on behalf of the Youth Bureau/Youth Board saying “We would like to support your program by purchasing as many of the listed items on your request as possible which your program will need to continue.” The Youth Bureau holds an annual golf tournament and proceeds from this event are awarded to deserving organizations.The Community Foundation of Tompkins county’s Ujeni Fund Grants for Advancing Public Education were awarded to South Seneca Elementary for a “Math and Movement” program ($9,995) and to South Seneca Middle School for a Middle School Sensory Room ($3,310). Mickie Sanders-Jauquet, Chair of the Ujeni Fund, congratulated Elementary School Remedial Math Teacher, Todd Kurzweil , for the “great proposal. We [the committee] were greatly encouraged by the community commitment of the entire school for this program and how this provides amazing learning opportunities for the students to build on.” The Math and Movement program was started with the current second graders in the fall of 2009 with Suzy Koontz in residence, teaching her Math and Movement skip counting/multiplication program and purchasing many of her materials. Mr. Kurzweil explains, “With the receipt of this grant, it is our desire for a complete school wide math and movement program. We would have the materials, training and expertise to turnkey it from within. It is our goal to further imbed the performance indicators associated with the ELA standard with this program. This will not be limited to vocabulary. It will include authentic problem solving including writing to represent reasoning and proof.” Suzy Koontz said, “It is generally understood today that many school children are far less able in mathematics than is desirable and that many children are so lacking in exercise that there are serious detrimental effects to health and learning. The faculty and staff of South Seneca are leaders in the movement to modify their existing curriculum to include kinesthetic components and to further meet the needs of their students .” For more information on this program, visit http://suzykoontz.com/A Ujeni Fund Grant was also awarded to Kathy Sinkiewicz, South Seneca’s Occupational Therapist who recently applied for and received a grant to furnish a “Middle School Sensory Suite” much like the one at the Elementary School. She states, “the Middle School sensory room grant will optimize learning for students with sensory processing difficulties as well as students with Autism, by providing them with opportunities for vestibular breaks to increase attention, focus, and sensory regulation which would optimize learning across content level.” For Grades 6 through 8, currently there are four students that would benefit from this room, with an increase to 9 students next year. Mrs. Sinkiewicz continues, “this year, the use of the sensory room in the Elementary School has proven that more students have been able to complete more of their course work in the mainstream or inclusive classroom. It has helped the students increase their attention and focus and functional abilities in the classroom.” Equipment to be purchased includes a platform swing and a Sensory Integration Station-Suspension Structure Flaghouse.

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