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Students, parents have resources available

By Staff | Aug 21, 2015

Childrens and teens have interests and professions they may want to pursue.

They also sometimes have problems at school, whether it be grades or behavioral.

Students and parents recently had an opportunity to visit more than 40 vendors at the Edison Mall in Fort Myers for the Fall Fashion Preview and Community Showcase. These vendors represented a variety of nonprofit and educational organizations to show off the services and events available for the new school year.

City and county organizations already offer many services to students, such as the Lee County Library System and the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, but there are other organizations that do just as much good. Some people are well aware of, others maybe not.

The Foundation for Lee County Public School was collecting school supplies for its education resource center. Margo Brewster, communications director, said they will have boxes set up at the mall and other locations to collect supplies for teachers to use in their classrooms for free.

Of course, the foundation is more than that. It offers programs and scholarships for low-income or at-risk students and seeks to recognize the best students and teachers countywide.

“We do a lot in the schools to raise money and awareness for the different programs we offer,”Brewster said. “We do the Golden Apple Teachers Awards and we try to recognize teachers and students for their excellence.”

The Lee County Library System always has programs for students at each of its 13 libraries. Not only does it offer regular story times, but it holds special events such as back-to-school kickoff celebrations among the system’s nearly 3,500 yearly events, most of which are geared for school-aged children.

“All our libraries offer read-down-your-debt programs and the bookmobile, which go toward the lower-income areas,” said Kristy Kilfoyle, programming coordinator for the library system. “Every day of the week there’s something going on at one of our branches. We’re in a position where we can do more outreach.”

The school system has formed partnerships with organizations such as Learning for Life, a state-funded character education program that gives schools the resources to teach life skills such as respect, responsibility, anti-bullying and getting along with others. It also teaches skills such as balancing a checkbook.

Learning for Life was in 53 Lee County schools last year, serving more than 21,000 students.

“There are so many kids that are not getting at home what they need to do better than their FCATs and they need to relearn social skills,” said Tina Pegler, Learning for Life director.

Learning for Life’s signature program is the Explorers, where high school students can volunteer for the local police and fire departments. Most police departments and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office offer the program. Those who are interested can check them out online on the police websites.

Students sometimes have their problems in and out of the classroom. The Pace Center for Girls is a year-round school for girls 12-18 who are struggling at home and in the school setting.

This is not at all like the Alternative Learning Center, but the girls who go there would be considered at-risk due to truancy, underachievement and even abuse and neglect at home.

“Our goal is to get the girl back on track and help her get back to the public school system,” said Pamela Carnahan, intake counselor. “We not only have three county school academics, but each student gets his or her own counselor to help them to reach their goals.”

If their problems are strictly academic, Sylvan Learning Center (with an office in Cape Coral) provides services. While they started out strictly as tutors, they have evolved to offer programs for more gifted students, including test prep for the SAT and ACT exams and summer camps for robotics.

“We tutor in every subject from 4 years old to adults,” said Sue Fowler, assistant director. “We have math enrichment programs so they can advance to a higher level. We can catch them up, keep them up or move them up.”

In the Cape, there”s North Nicholas High School, which is part of the three-school Coronado School system that helps at-risk youths earn their high school diploma. Some of these students also have attendance, performance and personal issues that could make graduation near impossible.

“They can work different sessions throughout the day online and in class, so they can go at their own pace,” said Trent Echhardt, principal. “Schools will bring students at risk of not graduating to us. Whereas they may not graduate on time at a regular high school, they can come here until they’re 21.”

Acceleration School is self-explanatory. It helps middle-school-aged students who need (or want) to pick up the pace do just that.

“Whether they were left behind by third grade FCAT scores, our job is to educate the students to make sure they catch up,” said George Coates, principal. “Students who are already on track can also accelerate.”

For “gifted” students, there were numerous charter school programs to look into, such as Pivot in Fort Myers, a blended-model middle and high school where students can go online or go to class and work with teachers and possibly graduate early if they want to.