June 14, 2017 - ERIE, Pa - Community businesses and organizations join together to create a five week summer learning program for Erie's inner city students.
From an astronaut to a doctor, these students have big dreams; and every intention of reaching them. With their future in mind, in a single file line, 46 ambitious; bright-eyed; energetic students boarded an EMTA bus bound for Edinboro University.
They're eager to spend the next five weeks of their summer break learning.
"I'm excited about helping me with my dreams and future job," said Shamarr Thompson, a program participant.
Stay Focused for the Future is a local non-profit organization that works with inner-city youth to tackle poverty through literacy, accountability and the mindset of solving problems and giving back to the community.
"We believe that education is the key to breaking poverty, and without that, our kids can't go on," said Rodney Cray, the program's founder and president.
The Erie Community came together to take this summer learning program from a lofty vision to a successful reality. From the custom made t-shirts donated by Iron Empire Clothing, to the free meals provided by Erie County Farms, and the daily transportation from the city of Erie to Edinboro University, and back, thanks to the EMTA, as the program's president says, "It takes a village to raise a community."
Part of that village, nearly 40 Edinboro University students.
"We have our graduate and undergraduate students working, almost in a one-on-one basis with these young people. So it's going to be easy to at least bring about that change in attitude that these children can read and they can write," said Dr. Mary Jo Melvin, Chairperson of Early Childhood & Reading.
These Edinboro University students are looking forward to working with the kids and helping to shape their futures.
"They have a lot of opportunities here this summer and I think that they're going to have a lot of fun," said Peyton Hanlon, Dr. Melvin's Graduate Assistant. "I'm most looking forward to making connections with the students and helping them learn to love to read and watching them grow throughout the program," added Jess Porter, an early childhood and special education student at the university.
Dr. Melvin insists, "We will. We will make a difference, for sure."
The program saw so much interest this summer that there's already a waiting list for next year, and organizers are hoping to expand it to accommodate even more students.
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