As the days get warmer and longer, we tend to focus more on sandy beaches and road trips and less on reading, writing, or arithmetic. Yet, studies show that the effects of ignoring learning during the summer months can be devastating for kids. Here at the Private Industry Council, we have programs designed specifically to address learning needs that bridge those summer months!
The May edition of our e-newsletter explores some of these programs and offers advice to parents and job seekers. There’s something for everyone here! Thanks so much for joining us for the latest edition of the e-newsletter!
Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Julia Sefcheck
Julia Sefcheck joined PIC as a Youth Specialist in 2005. Last April, she became the Youth Supervisor, a position that oversees the youth programs at PIC. She’s worked extensively with youth to help them develop career goals and access the resources they need to find a job. With her help, PIC’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives have soared to new heights via tissue paper hot air balloons, bottle rockets, and all sorts of other cool projects!
In addition to her work here at PIC, Sefcheck has experience as a substitute teacher, manager, legal assistant, and writer. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and a Secondary English Certification from Saint Vincent College. Fellow staff members value her expertise, creativity, and artistic abilities.
We sat down with Sefcheck recently to discuss her job and youth programming here at PIC.
What does a Youth Supervisor do?
I oversee the CAPPSS [Core Academic Preparation and Professional Soft Skills], In-School Work Experience, and Afterschool Enrichment programs.
You’ve been the Youth Supervisor at PIC for a year now. What lessons has the experience taught you?
The whole year has been such a learning process. I’ve had to learn to balance the responsibilities of a Youth Supervisor and a Youth Specialist. I’ve learned about hiring and organization. I have gained another perspective on what it takes to run these programs. It’s eye-opening.
Can you give some examples?
For Afterschool Enrichment, I never realized how much accountability there has to be. There are so many more things involved in it that you just don’t know as a Youth Specialist.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy most working with the students, whether it’s a third grader or an 18-year-old dropout. It’s when you make that connection. It’s a great feeling being able to help somebody. I also like the opportunity for being creative. I’ve been able to come up with all these wacky lesson plans we’ve done. It’s given me an opportunity to try some things.
What do you find challenging about your job?
Working with the kids! It’s just because you can’t always help everybody. It doesn’t matter how much I provide, if they’re not motivated, I can’t help them any further. So that can be frustrating.
What makes PIC’s youth programming unique?
I think overall it’s the one-on-one attention kids get when they come to our programs.
What makes PIC’s youth programming important?
I think it’s where you can really make a change on somebody’s outlook on the future. We can open their eyes to opportunities or experiences. They can start to think there are opportunities out there. We get phone calls from parents all the time who got their start with the PIC program and now want their kids to be involved.
What do you want youth to carry away from their time with PIC?
With Afterschool Enrichment, I want them to take away fun from the program. I want it to be something they enjoy doing. I also want them to take away curiosity—that they want to learn more. With CAPPSS, I want them to take away self-worth and independence that they can move forward with what they want to do. With In-School, it’s probably similar to CAPPSS, but they have more of a tangible product. They take away necessary job skills for the next step. It’s what they leave with more than the other kids.
There are lots of sobering statistics about achievement gaps that widen over the summer months, especially for those from low-income families. How does PIC youth programming help to bridge those gaps?
The Afterschool Enrichment summer program is geared toward that. It’s all about keeping kids engaged and curious. Our In-School program is about keeping them engaged also.
What one thing do you want people to know about PIC’s youth programming, even if they don’t remember anything else?
It’s all free. We get that question asked a lot
For additional information about PIC’s youth programs, please call 724-836-2600, ext. 219.
Eight Ways to Help Kids Prepare for Kindergarten over the Summer
Even though autumn is months and months away, it’s important to work with kids now to make sure they enter kindergarten ready to learn. School readiness is one of the top priorities of our Head Start, Early Head Start, and PA Pre-K Counts programs—but as we show in our classrooms every day, getting ready for K-12 doesn’t have to be boring.
Kids learn through play. With a little direction, parents can help them have fun learning all the things they need to know to be able to join the big kids at their local elementary school come September.
There are all sorts of activities that parents can do at home over the summer months to make the transition to school easier, including:
- Play school with your child. Take every opportunity you can to sing the alphabet song or count steps, cars, flowers—anything! Ask kids to point out specific letters on signs, license plates, etc., that you pass in your daily travels. Draw letters in shaving cream, pudding, sand, or cool whip. Be creative—and always on the lookout for ways to help reinforce and expand kids’ knowledge!
- Read to your child. This will help your child to hone her ability to sit still and listen for an extended period. Look at pictures before you read—have your child predict what will happen. As you read, point to words and discuss what’s happening and what’s going to happen. Talk to her about the story—what did she like most about it? How would she have ended it differently?
- Praise your child. Tell your child how proud you are of her. Compliment her when she does well—tell her when she amazes you with how much she knows! Focus on the positive and ignore the negative (unless it is a safety issue).
Practice basic self-help skills. Practice motor skills, such as zipping zippers, tying shoe laces, etc. Encourage your child to use the toilet independently, wash his hands, put away toys, and use good health habits. Use the words “please” and “thank you” daily.
- Provide chances to interact with others. Help your child further develop her social-emotional skills by taking her to play groups, going to story time at the library, or taking her to dance or other types of classes that she enjoys. Give her opportunities to have positive social experiences with both adults and children.
Look for ways to make learning fun—and to make it a part of everything you do. There are many learning opportunities right in your home. No need to go buy anything, just use what you have. Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children provides excellent resources for getting started. They have a monthly newsletter, Learning is Everywhere, that you can subscribe to via e-mail. They also have Kindergarten Here I Come! resources available online.
- Develop a schedule/routine. Together with your child discuss and then make a chart showing a daily schedule for when school starts. Remember to include important items such as:
- Wake up time
- Morning prep time
- Bus time
- Return from school time/snack
- Homework time
- Family time
- “Me” time
- Celebrate! Do something special before the beginning of school to celebrate your child’s advancement into kindergarten. Show your child that this is an exciting time—and that entering school is something to look forward to.
In the Spotlight: Summer Kindergarten Readiness Program
The Program Snapshot feature is designed to provide a quick glimpse into PIC’s over two dozen programs. This month we focus on a new addition to Head Start: the Summer Kindergarten Readiness Pilot Program.
What is it?
The Summer Kindergarten Readiness Pilot Program is a new initiative that provides intensive preparation activities to preschoolers who will be entering kindergarten in the fall of 2013. Funding comes through the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP). We are honored to have been selected to be part of this state-wide initiative.
When is it?
The pilot program will run for one week at the end of June 2013.
Where will it take place?
The program will be based in elementary schools in Albert Gallatin and Brownsville school districts. We hope to have the opportunity to bring it to additional schools in coming years.
Why does the program exist?
One of Head Start’s goals is to ensure that children are prepared for kindergarten. This one-week pilot program is the testing ground for implementing new strategies that will help children fine tune the skills they need to enter elementary school in the fall. We will lay a foundation for continued summer learning through classroom time and home visits.
How will the program work?
We will work with school districts to identify specific kindergarten-readiness-related deficits in individual students and create an individualized summer learning plan for each child. Students will attend classes that are designed to address specific needs for one week. Classes will be fun, and children will learn through play and other engaging activities. We will then provide additional information to parents to help them promote school readiness within their homes over the summer.
Who is eligible to apply?
Five-year-olds who will be entering kindergarten in the fall of 2013 in Albert Gallatin and Brownsville school districts and who meet Head Start eligibility requirements are invited to participate. Priority will be given to those children who have not previously participated in early childhood education programs. The number of slots is limited.
What happens after the pilot program?
A pilot program serves as a beta test that helps to prove effectiveness and work out any challenges in a new program. Plans are under way to implement a second phase of the Summer Kindergarten Readiness Program in late summer 2013. Through initiatives such as this, our program will continue to strengthen school readiness skills for children throughout Fayette County.
How do I find out more?
For additional information, please contact the Head Start of Fayette County program at: 724-430-4818.
Profile from the Classroom: Krystal Boswell
When she was taking the GED® test in mid-April, Krystal Boswell wasn’t sure how well she’d do on certain sections of the exam. After being away from the classroom for 18 years and having been enrolled in the adult education program at PIC for just a month, she felt a little underprepared. But she took the test with the encouragement of her teacher, Mary Lou Friedline—and she passed.
“I didn’t expect to get there this fast,” Boswell said. She added that she was surprised that she remembered as much as she did. She is now feeling more confident in her own abilities, though she still feels a little behind.
Boswell left school when she was about 13 years old, at the end of 8th grade. She married just a few years later—when she was 17 years old. Then, about two years ago, she went from being married to being divorced with two children—ages seven and nine. She had never been employed. She didn’t have a high school diploma.
With support from her ex-husband and a little money she’s able to earn cleaning houses, she’s been able to make ends meet. But she wants financial independence. She wants to be able to support her kids.
She set goals: to pass the GED® test and to take some college classes so that she can find a job that pays enough to sustain a family. PIC’s adult education program has been there to help her reach those goals.
At PIC, she met Friedline, who recognized her as an intelligent young woman. Boswell discussed her options with Friedline and decided that it was a good idea to get the GED® test taken fairly quickly.
“She thought it was going to take her much longer than this,” Friedline said of Boswell. “We’re still working on identifying the extraordinary academic skills she has. Many adults measure success by academic scores instead of evaluating what actual strengths they have.”
With her GED® goal accomplished, Boswell will be able to focus all her attention on preparing for entering a post-secondary program. “I don’t think I’m ready for the next step,” she said, adding that she believes passing the GED® was a lot simpler than what she has ahead of her. She’ll continue working with the adult education program to prepare for the transition into the college classroom.
“She’s a natural-born learner,” said Friedline, “and she’s willing to do what’s needed to figure out what works best. She amazes me.”
Friedline has faith in Boswell and hopes that she will gain additional faith in herself. “I hope that within the next few months that she can say to herself, ‘I’m smart,’” said Friedline.
When she gets to college, Boswell said, “I’m expecting it to be ‘whoosh’—in over my head.” She knows that the college classroom won’t offer her as much flexibility as she’s found in the PIC adult education classroom, and she’s a little nervous about that.
But there are lots of decisions—and preparations—to make before she can reach the college classroom. For example, she isn’t quite sure what career path she wants to take.
“I feel lost,” she said. But with Friedline’s help, she’s trying to get a better sense of direction. “Mary Lou is very helpful. […] She guides you on how to make the decision,” Boswell explained.
Right now Boswell thinks that she might like to pursue a career in the medical profession, as a nurse or radiologist or something related. “I have spent a lot of time in hospitals with family,” she said, and she thinks that it would be a working environment where she’d feel comfortable. However, her priority is finding something that will pay fairly well and offer flexible hours because of her kids.
“I wouldn’t be rushing so if I didn’t need employment fast,” she said. “I need to take care of myself and my children.”
When she finally does learn all she needs to from Friedline’s class and moves on to post-secondary education, she says that she’ll miss the one-on-one interaction she found here at PIC. “I would definitely miss Mary Lou,” Boswell said.
If time permits, she may keep attending Friedline’s class while going on for her post-secondary education.
Preparing for the Next Step
To be able to decide on a career path, it’s important to find answers to questions such as: What jobs would be a good fit for me? Do I have all the skills I need to fill those types of jobs? Do I need any additional education/training to get the job I want?
As job seekers answer these questions, they may find that in order to reach their employment goals, they have to return to school. Transitioning back into school can take months of preparation, making it essential to figure out answers to these questions sooner rather than later.
“They can’t start into a program the next week,” said Mary Barbour, a Private Industry Council (PIC) Employment Specialist who works out of the PA CareerLink® Westmoreland center in Youngwood.
As an Employment Specialist, Barbour provides services and career counseling to help customers obtain jobs. She said that many people who come to her for assistance don’t know exactly what direction they want to take. Though she can’t make decisions for them, it’s her job to provide all the information they need to figure out a path to employment.
There’s a lot of information to take in. Through assessment, Employment Specialists help job seekers identify strengths and interests. Then they connect them with research materials to identify occupations that match identified strengths and interests—and Barbour and her colleagues then refer them to information about the training they need for a certain job, what the average salary is, and much, much more.
Often, Barbour said, her customers are folks who have recently lost a job, but don’t have the skills necessary to move into another job that would provide enough income to be self-sustaining. The next step is, by necessity, very often returning to school.
Many schools—particularly those with short-term programs, such as PIC’s own Education and Technology Institute (ETI)—start new classes throughout the year. For those who discover they need supplemental training to reach career goals, however, preparing to go back to school will take time. The sooner they start, the better. Barbour said, “You need at least two months to go through the process.”
There’s a whole laundry list of things that need to be done, including securing financial aid, taking exams, and getting physicals, inoculations, and TB tests. How extensive the list is depends on the program and the individual. Those going into the healthcare fields have a different list than those going into computer technology fields.
In addition, sometimes individuals have been out of school for a while and need extra support to brush up on basic skills and re-acclimate to the classroom setting by developing study skills, time management etc. These individuals enroll in Career Transitions classes, such as those offered by PIC’s adult education program, to help prepare them to succeed in post secondary education and training.
“That’s something that’s very important,” said John Chedister, a PIC Employment Specialist who works with Barbour out of the PA CareerLink® Westmoreland center in Youngwood. Career Transitions classes help students do well on entrance exams and bolster skills that help students succeed in the post-secondary classroom. (They are also a great resource for students who haven’t decided what type of job or training they are interested in pursuing.)
Career Transitions classes are just one step. Chedister said that he has would-be students visit a minimum of two or three post-secondary schools and tells them to “ask pointed questions” before they decide where they want to go.
He even has job seekers who are thinking of going back to school visit potential employers to gain a better understanding of what they expect of their employees and what opportunities are available. By talking to human resource professionals at places they’d like to work, these job seekers are able to come away with information about job prospects and needed skills. They can also often set up job shadowing experiences to see first-hand what a specific position entails.
Plus, by visiting a potential employer, they are networking. “A lot of times an employer will like what they see,” Chedister said. When they’re impressed by their visitor, employers may invite these job seekers to come see them after training is complete.
Job seekers who need help identifying career options should not hesitate to reach out to their local PA CareerLink® center. Employment Specialists such as Chedister and Barbour are there to help navigate the often confusing road to full-time employment.
New PIC Facility Coming to North Union
The current North Union facility is part of an old high school.
UNIONTOWN, Pa. – If you’ve ever visited our North Union-based offices and classrooms, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself a bit confused by the setup. We rent space in a 75-year-old building that once housed a high school. We take up a section of the building here and a section there, with nothing to join them. Visitors new to the building can have a difficult time finding the right entrance and can get turned around easily in the labyrinth of hallways in some places.
Over the years, we’ve remodeled as best we can, but there’s only so much we’re able to do with the space. That’s why, though we’ve had many wonderful years at our old North Union location, we decided that it’s time to consolidate space by moving to a new home.
We will be building a new facility in Lemont Furnace, Pa., just a short distance from our current North Union office. The new building will be very similar to our Greensburg-based headquarters office, which is a basic, utilitarian structure.
We have several programs based out of our current North Union location, including Head Start and Early Head Start, PA Pre-K Counts, adult education, afterschool enrichment, and much, much more. While these programs are scattered here and there in the current building, they will be able to share space more easily in the new facility. The construction project will also help us to save money on utilities and other expenses—and we will invest this saved money back into programming, enhancing the services we already provide. It will enable us to provide a better learning and working environment.
In addition, we see this as a wonderful opportunity to showcase the good news coming out of Fayette County, which is home to a nationally recognized Head Start program and other great programming.
Total cost of purchasing land and constructing the building will be $4.2 million. In February 2013, the USDA approved a low-interest, 40-year loan to cover these costs. However, the USDA has requested that we raise additional funds to pay down the debt service on the loan. We hope to raise $1 million through the support of individuals, businesses, and foundations.
According to our current schedule, we will break ground in early October 2013 and complete construction in late July 2014. We invite you to help us build a better future in Fayette County!