Northwest News

McCarver Scholars leave reminder they’ll be back

When McCarver Elementary School students say goodbye to their 91-year-old building next month, among the marks they will leave behind is an art project made of old CDs.

The display, to hang outside the school while it’s being renovated, is the brainchild of Mary Fox, who coordinates the Write@253 program that teaches writing skills in the McCarver Scholars program.

Students used permanent markers to decorate the CDs with patterns and with the favorite words they have learned this year. Fox told the students that this project is a reminder to the community that McCarver Scholars kids will be back.

“We are calling this ‘The Unity Art Project,’” Fox said. “We will hang them on the fence so they flutter in the wind and show the community what it means to be a McCarver Scholar.”

McCarver Scholars is a before- and after-school program that began in 2013. The program aims to support students’ academic progress and foster community building.

Leading the effort is Peace Community Center, an offshoot of Peace Lutheran Church a few blocks from McCarver. The center is in the second year of a five-year grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to run the McCarver program.

The program meets four days a week and serves students in second through fifth grade who are not at grade level, have behavior problems, or have challenging situations at home. About 80 kids participated in the program this year.

“Now that our program has more notoriety, some parents are asking how to get their children in,” said Alyssa Urish, elementary program director with Peace Community Center. “We have a process where a teacher has to recommend them but the reality is that most of the students at this school meet one of those criteria. We have a constant wait list.”

Several community organizations volunteer throughout the week to provide reading, writing and technology enrichment classes. Among them is Write@253, a Tacoma-based nonprofit creative writing organization.

One of Write@253’s volunteers is Makayla Hiller, an 18-year-old student at Tacoma Community College who hopes to become a history professor. She heard about the volunteer opportunity from Fox, who is also a writing professor at TCC.

“I have been able to really connect with the kids and have been able to get them excited about writing,” Hiller said.

During the after-school program, students are also given time to work on their homework.

“That is my favorite part,” Iyanna Sharpley, 11-year-old fifth-grader, said. “I don’t have to go home and worry about it. I get it done on time everyday.”

“For their parents, that’s their main goal, to have us support them in their homework,” Urish said.

Sharpley’s friend, Trinity Mitchell, is also in fifth grade and thinks the enrichment classes are the best part of the program. Cooking, Zumba, blogging or learning how to finish a Rubik’s Cube are among some of the activities available.

“I really like the blogging,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never done one before that class.”

McCarver Scholars meets before school at 8:30 a.m. and again after school until 6 p.m., when students can catch buses home. Urish understands that’s a long day for most students and that some may be tired and not always able to attend.

“We have this expectation that they need to be here 80 percent of the time,” Urish said.

“They have the self awareness to know that they are not going to be their best self and we can work with that.”

McCarver Scholars met last week for their final session of the school year. The program will relocate in the fall to McKinley Elementary, where McCarver students will temporarily attend school during the renovation project.

McCarver Scholars also offers a summer program. This year’s five-week session kicks off at Bryant Montessori on June 22.

Organizers say the program aims to teach students grit, hope, optimism, integrity and solidarity.

Andy Mejia, a third-grader, has learned at least one.

“Grit means you have to try your best and have endurance,” Mejia said. “I need to push toward my goals and never give up.”