Students achieve success through after school program

(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on November 15, 2016)

Every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, Tim Andrews volunteers at the Center for Success in Marion. He mentors children, helping them with their emotional and social well being.

“My goal is to show them that there is a different way and there is a way out of poverty and it can be theirs if they choose that,” Andrews said.

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Andrews volunteers at Center for Success on Mondays and Wednesdays. Photo provided.

Center for Success is a non-profit after school program that serves kindergarten through 12th graders in the Marion area. The Marion location opened in 2010 and is part of a network of centers; the other centers are in Michigan.

After D.J. Ikeler graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2009, he moved back to Michigan, his home state, and helped start two centers there. He has since moved back to Marion to be the pastor for God’s House and while being the president of the Center for Success Network.

According to Ikeler, the Marion center focuses a lot on emotional and physical health. He said many of the children who come to the center are in dire need, some having parents who are drug addicts.

One way Center for Success is helping the children with health is installing a washer and dryer. Ikeler said about 90 percent of their kids don’t have ones in their home, causing them to not go to school because they’re embarrassed.

Despite the hardships for these children, Ikeler said they see progression in them. He said he thinks Center for Success is impacting downtown Marion in a positive way because of providing a safe place for children.

“We’re seeing kids who came into the program four or five years ago in junior high, they are graduating and going to college. We’re seeing kids that came in and when they came in, they couldn’t read and now they can read,” Ikeler said. “Or when they came in they were so emotionally disturbed that all they would do is kick people or cuss people out … and now these are kids whose teachers are saying they are doing better and better not just academically but emotionally.”

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Along with teaching health and helping with academics, Horner and the volunteers will also play games with them. Photo provided.

Erika Horner, director of the Marion Center for Success, said the staff provides opportunities for the children and their families to see different ways of living.

“We just want to make sure our children feel loved and confident in who they are,” Horner said. “We want them to know there’s a possibility for them to do whatever they can dream of.”

Along with mentoring, the staff also provides them with coats, hats, gloves, backpacks and even Christmas gifts. Andrews said he has bought them shoes, clothes and food stamps. He said he likes to take them bowling, fishing and out to eat as well.

“I feel so connected to these kids … I engage with them outside of the Center for Success,” Andrews said. “I just can’t leave it at the center because I know the hardships that poverty puts on families so you try to reach a little bit deeper.”

Volunteering at the center for the past five years, Andrews said it’s rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time.

“These kids are from such deep poverty,” Andrews said. “It’s rewarding from the fact that you think you can make a small difference in their life and give them some hope for the future.”

 

 

 

Center for Success: post break-in update

(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on November 9, 2016)

Volunteers and staff at the Marion Center for Success are still working together to recover from the break-ins last summer.

Center for Success is an after school program for kindergarten through 12th grade students. The center offers free services including emotional and social well being, health tips, education programs and team building activities.

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Horner said she was able to rally up a team together to help clean up the damages. Photo provided.

According to Director Erika Horner, there were a series of break-ins at the center that started in the beginning of July this past summer. She said 13 windows were broken out and storage areas were ransacked. Horner also said two laptops, a master key, snacks and Christmas gifts for the children were stolen. To this day, the Marion Police Department has not been able to find who broke in and stole these items.

Horner was able to rally a team of volunteers to help clean up the glass, board up the windows and clean up other damages to the building.

D.J. Ikeler, the president of the Center for Success Network, said he felt discouraged when first  finding out about the break-ins.

“We’re trying so hard to do good here, why are people not respecting that?” Ikeler said he was thinking during the time of the break-ins.

But Ikeler said it turned into a positive situation because of the people who came together to help them clean up and others who donated and did whatever they could to help.

“It was one of those days where it was like what the enemy meant for evil God used for good,” Ikeler said. “It was really cool to watch the Marion community come together and support us.”

Janet Andrews, a volunteer for the center, said their team has worked on seeing the break-in as positive.

“We kind of went on and said ‘we’re not going to let this get us down,’” Andrews said. “It seems like it was an outpouring of the community of the kids coming and supporting the center.”

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Thirteen windows were broken due to the break-in.

Now, Horner and Ikeler said the break-ins have caused them to spend more money to work on repairing damages and to replace the Christmas gifts. But they said a lot of people have stepped up to help, such as two Indiana Wesleyan University graduates paying for two new laptops for them.

Horner said her staff is also thinking of creative ways to replace the windows. Along with business sponsors having its logo on the windows, Horner said they are looking for local artists who want to design murals as well.

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Ikeler said the break-ins are one of the results of being in an area of poverty. He also said instead of letting this get him down, it makes him excited about his job even more than before.

“This is the whole point of why we do what we do because if we didn’t help kids and we didn’t try to empower kids to be successful and try to teach them a better way, then things like this would continue happening,” Ikeler said. “But my hope is that 10 years from now, it won’t happen because we would have impacted so many kids in the city that that’s not the mindset of the kids.”

Republican Sweep for 2016 Grant County Election

(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on November 8, 2016)

The Grant County Republicans have filled all of the positions in this year’s election, including school board, commissioner, county council and treasurer.

Jim McWhirt, one of the winners for the county council, said he felt confident about the results in the beginning of the night because of all of the positive feedback he had received.

“It was good to be out today at the various polling sites and talking to the people out there as well,” McWhirt said. “I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far.”

Despite the outcome, Barbara Stodghill, democratic county treasurer candidate, said she was going to stay positive.

“We’re here to celebrate so we hope that’s going to happen,” Stodghill said in the beginning of the night. “We’re going to get through this, either way it’s going to be okay.”

Republican Sarah Melford beat Stodghill for the county treasurer position with by 23.22 percent. Democrat county commissioner candidate Randy Goodman lost the position to Republican Mark Bardsley with the final vote being 64.4- 35.6 percent.

Kevin Mahan, republican state representative for District 31, led the election by a large margin even before all of the votes were counted. He was able to defeat Democrat Lynn Johnson by 29.28 percent, allowing Mahan to serve for another term.

Mahan said he will keep listening to the people as he continues being the District 31 representative.

“I remind myself God gave me two ears and one mouth,” Mahan said. “With victories like this, it’s reassuring to know you’re doing the right thing, you’re listening to the people. ”

Republican Susan Brooks was reelected as representative for District 5 with 68.48 percent of the votes.

Incumbent Grant County Recorder Pam Harris has been guaranteed the position again, running uncontested. Despite the negativity she has heard from people about the general election, she said she knows

“I do feel that the country will pull together and we’ll get the right person (as president),” Harris said.

For state election results, Republican Eric Holcomb defeated Democrat John Gregg by 22.53 percent, and Republican United States Senator Todd Young defeated Democrat with the final vote being 60.41- 33.07 percent.

For the rest of the results of the Grant County 2016 Election, click here.

 

Best Bags program a success for Allen Elementary School

(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on October 28, 2016)

In 2013, Shirley Saddler, children’s ministry director at Hanfield United Methodist Church, partnered with Allen Elementary School to start a weekend bag program.

According to data collected by Kids Count Data at the Indiana Youth Institute in 2015, 33.3 percent of children and youth under 18 are considered impoverished in Grant County, compared to the state average of 21.9 percent and 22.2 percent nationwide.

More than 90 percent of the students at Allen are on free or reduced lunch, according to Beth Fisher, director of Kids Hope U.S.A. through Hanfield United Methodist Church. Kids Hope also ministers to Allen Elementary.

When the program first started, it was only benefitting 32 students. Now, in the program’s third year, Saddler said her and the team are putting together bags for 124 students.

“It has been really great,” Fisher said. “The school has been really excited they have seen the benefits in their kids.”

The team has two menus that alternate each weekend, including two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks. Fisher said the food items include Ramen noodles, Chef Boyardee cans, soup, applesauce and fruit cups.

According to Saddler, every Thursday night her team gets together and organizes all of the food and puts them into Walmart bags. On Friday morning, the food is hauled to the school and taken into the classrooms.

Nancy Price, a second grade teacher at Allen, has seven children in her class that are eligible for Best Bags. She said the students who receive the bags are not “singled out.”

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“The kids know, it’s not even presented as “well why do they get that and I don’t?” Price said. “It’s just kind of an unspoken thing.”

According to Saddler, there are always enough donors who contribute to the funding of the program, and to this day they have “never struggled to have enough.”

Fisher said they have received lots of praise from the parents of the students who receive the bags.

“Parents who have students getting (the bags), some of them almost come to tears, they’re like ‘this has blessed our family so much, it has helped us when we don’t always have quite enough and we don’t know what we would do without it,’” Fisher said. “Just knowing that we could help out that little bit really makes it worth it

Saddler said the Best Bags is an acronym for “Bless each student every day.” She said she is glad that they are helping the students to have enough food over the weekend so they can start the week ready to learn.

“Just to know we can make a difference in Marion, in a school that needs a little extra help is huge,” Saddler said. “I’m just glad we can do a little bit to make a difference.”

Jaimee Maddox: A Project Leadership Success Story

(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on October 24, 2016)

Marion High School graduate Jaimee Maddox is in her senior year at Ball State University. A social work major and psychology in human development minor, Maddox plans to attend graduate school next year that can lead her to work in student life.

Outside of class, Maddox is very involved in numerous organizations including Phi Mu, a service based sorority, and two honors societies for Greek members. On top of that, Maddox also works as an academic peer mentor for students.

Some of her success can be credited to Project Leadership.

Since 2007, Project Leadership has been able to “get (at-risk) students to and through some kind of post secondary education,” Brenda Morehead, Project Leadership’s director of impact, said.

The main aspect of Project Leadership is partnering up the students with a mentor who encourages and helps them to succeed.

Maddox’s mentor was Rachel Elwood, a staff writer at World Gospel Mission. Elwood said she would come to MHS once a week with lunch and they would talk about classes, extracurricular activities, boys and life.

“I just tried to ask questions that would help her … figure out her steps,” Elwood said. “I just tried to be that extra voice.”

Elwood said she loved being Jaimee’s mentor.

“Right off the bat I knew she was special,” Elwood said. “I knew that whatever wisdom or whatever I could give her she was going to do well in life.”

She also said she is very proud of Maddox for what she has done in college such as joining Phi Mu and stepping outside of her comfort zone by going to Ireland on a spring break trip through BSU.

Maddox said she while she has always been a self-motivated person, she is glad for Project Leadership because of having the support from Elwood.

“(Project Leadership) prepared me for college because I had a mentor who actually went to college and had that college experience,” Maddox said. “No one in my family that’s close to me in age, or even my parents, have been to college. So it was nice to have that … guidance in order what to do to get to college.”

Even after graduating from high school, Maddox is still involved in Project Leadership. She interned for the program for two summers during college. Maddox said the internship really prepared her for her future career in student affairs.

Morehead said Maddox was “incredibly wonderful to work around.”

She also said how it can be a difficult task to make the transition from high school to college, but Morehead said Maddox did it with “relative ease.”

“Hopefully part of it is her personality and her ability to tackle issues, hopefully a small part of it is what Project Leadership has contributed to who she is and the path that she is taking,” Morehead said. “We are very proud of her.”

While Maddox and Elwood are not able to meet up as much as they would like now that Maddox is in college, Elwood is happy to have been able to be her mentor.

“Jaimee’s special and I knew she was going to do well in life,” Elwood said. “I was lucky to be a part of her life because I know she is going to do great things in the future.”

Allen Principal Works With Staff, Community to End Negative Reputation

(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on October 18, 2016)

When Anthony Williams took the job as principal for Allen Elementary School in 2013, he was warned about the students’ behavior. He was told they run around and walk out of the classrooms.

But that didn’t stop him.

The summer before he started his job, he hired 17 new teachers to improve the school.

“I think changing the perception of what was Allen Elementary has been a short term goal and I think we have achieved that,” Williams said.

Before she started working at Allen, Brenda Rodriguez, a fourth grade teacher, said she was told there were more behavioral problems than there are now.

“He just really has a calming effect on the kids,” Rodriguez said. “He understands the kids.”

Now, Williams is in his fourth year of leading Allen. Even though he lives in Muncie, he said his heart is where he works.

“Just because you live in a totally different location than from where you work doesn’t mean you can’t be 100 percent devoted to your profession or committed to the students or committed to the cause,” Williams said.

According to data collected by Kids Count Data at the Indiana Youth Institute in 2015, 33.3 percent of children and youth under 18 are considered impoverished in Grant County, compared to the state average of 21.9 percent and 22.2 percent nationwide.

Even though Grant County has a high level of poverty, Williams tries not to look at it as a negative.

“We look at that as an opportunity to service and that’s what we’re here for,” Williams said. “I think education has to get back to that, realizing that this is a service profession, it’s not about numbers, it’s not about accountability grades, it’s about the service we can provide to help students. So the fact that we have the highest poverty rate is a challenge but it’s an opportunity to help.”

Because of so many children at Allen being in poverty, Williams said he and his staff have to make sure the students feel comfortable learning. He said they make sure they are getting enough sleep, have food in the morning and are loved.

Williams said he works hard to have a personal relationship with each and every student, and to know their hobbies and interests.

“I try to be visible, I try to have the students see me every single day whether or not it’s in the hallways or in various parts of the building but definitely in the classroom,” Williams said.

Whenever Rodriguez goes to Williams’ office to talk to him, he is usually never there. But it’s because he is “out and about” in the school.

“He’s not a principal that stays in his office and I think that’s huge,” Rodriguez said. “I would say he knows every student by name in our school.”

Nancy Price, a second grade teacher, said in her 13 years of teaching, Williams has been “the most encouraging principal I’ve ever had.”

“Being the school leader you have to wear a lot of hats, but I think he does a good job balancing it all. He never looks flustered,” Price said. “He’s been great, so hopefully he sticks around.”

 

John Gregg Makes Campaign Stop in Marion

(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on October 11, 2016)

John Gregg, Democratic candidate for Indiana governor, shared his views and ideas to the Marion Rotary Club on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the club’s weekly meeting.

“I’m not running to be governor, I’m running to serve as governor,” Gregg said in his speech at the Meshingomesia Golf & Social Club. “I do think there’s a distinction, and I do think those of you that are in office or in public service, or those of you that are in business understand the distinction between being governor or serving as governor.”

The Sandborn native also said he thinks he is prepared to serve as governor for the state. His experience for this new position includes former president of Vincennes University, working for two 500 Fortune companies, practicing law and being Speaker of the House for the Indiana House of Representatives for six years.

He mentioned how he will work together with his running mate, Christina Hale, a Democratic member of the Indiana House of Representatives.

“We’re about ideas, not ideology, and we’re about people not about politics, and we want to work on improving the state for all Hoosiers,” Gregg said. “We talk about the economy, we talk about education, we talk about infrastructure, and we talk about our state’s drug epidemic.”

Gregg said he wants to focus on not only the number of jobs, but the quality of jobs. He his opponent, Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb, focuses mainly on unemployment.

“(Holcomb is) going to tell you we’ve got low unemployment. We do, I’m not going to dispute that. But the truth is, Hoosiers are working harder and harder and earning less and less,” Gregg said. “We want to focus on the quality of job, that high wage paying job.”

For education, Gregg mentioned how he does not agree with the way teachers have to “teach to the (ISTEP) test.”

Gregg also said he wants high school students to be informed about what jobs are available to them after completion of a secondary education. He said not only should high school students seek a four-year degree, but to consider all of the other options as well such as an apprenticeship, earning certifications and attending a two-year college.

He said there is not only a drug problem in Indiana, but an epidemic. Gregg shared how it’s in every community, race, educational level and income level.

“We can ignore it and not talk about it, but what we are doing is not working,” Gregg said as he talked about the drug usage in Indiana is “embarrassing.”

“It’s an economic problem, it’s a social problem. And we can no longer can we keep just building prisons and think we are going to build our way out of it,” Gregg said. “We need to have a serious, adult conversation.”

Gregg finished by saying he wants to see growth in population, job rates, income levels and education.

The general election, including for Indiana state governor, is Tuesday, Nov. 8.