The 2011-12 school year is rapidly coming to an end. In a few short weeks, books will be closed, chairs will be placed atop desks, and students will spill out the front doors of local schools in excited expectation of long and hopefully, warm and sunny summer days.
For Chautauqua Striders, it has been a year filled with challenges but also one of significant growth and great opportunity. Chautauqua Striders was able to offer tutoring, mentoring, community and Hispanic outreach, and a nationally recognized track and field program to more than 1,770 young people during the past nine months.
Chautauqua Striders currently employs more than 90 people, full and part time. There are more than 20 tutoring sites reaching out to students in grades K-12 and beyond. Children and youth in 15 different school districts receive academic help, as well as the Cassadaga Job Corps, the Safe House and those who are home-schooled.
Students work furiously against the clock to see how many math problems they can calculate in a timed race during the recent Origami Olympics at Washington Middle School.
In addition to Jamestown, students from Dunkirk to Chautauqua Lake, Frewsburg to Randolph, and Panama to Maple Grove take advantage of the extra support and assistance available. Tutors also work with individuals preparing for GEDs (high school equivalency diploma tests); ASVABs (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery); TABE (Testing for Adult Basic Education for pre-employment), and PSAT, SAT, and ACT college entrance examinations.
Success stories, academic and personal, motivate tutors to bring out the best in their students.
The mother of a Lighted Schoolhouse high school tutoring student said, "I don't know what Amber would have done if we didn't find Striders."
Josh, who attends the program at the Dunkirk Boys and Girls Club, said recently, "I like coming up to the Striders because when I have homework or am troubled, they help me in a nice way. They don't yell at me and say, 'Do this; do that.'"
Academic enrichment, mentoring and outreach complement each other by offering guidance to individuals and families. All three work very closely with each other to make sure students are keeping up with their studies and families are receiving any assistance they might need.
Chautauqua Striders Mentoring matches youth (prospective mentees) in grades 2-12 who are recommended by school staff and guidance counselors with caring adults (mentors) who have volunteered their time and their friendship.
Whether in a school-based or community setting, mentors are able to share their life experiences, open up directions for personal growth, and offer new adventures designed to help strengthen their mentees' self-esteem, and develop important and lasting relationships with them.
A mentor recently confided to Jamestown High School mentoring coordinator Lorraine Walker as she turned in her weekly mentoring report, "Each time I write this, I am so humbled and grateful to be a part of this program."
Mike Myers, North County mentoring coordinator, overheard a conversation between students at School No. 3 that gives testimony to the mentoring relationship from a young person's point of view.
He related he heard a student ask his friend, Xavier, who is a mentee, what he was doing and where he was going with his lunch. Xavier said he was waiting to eat with his mentor.
His friend asked, "What is a mentor?" to which he replied his mentor was a special friend who talks to him about photography, football, school or whatever they want to talk about.
Xavier said, "I wait for him every Monday to play games, too, and he is the best."
His friend reacted by saying, "I want a mentor, too!"
Chautauqua Striders Mentoring staff and Alternative Placement Program/Transition Team coordinator collaborated recently to provide dresses for young ladies hoping to attend prom but who might be limited financially.
More than 200 beautiful gowns were donated and more than 60 were given away to high school students from Jamestown High School, Chautauqua Lake Central School, Falconer Central School and Southwestern Central School. The program was a huge success and brought beaming smiles to the girls' faces. Many thanks to everyone who donated.
Originally Chautauqua Striders began as a track and field club for youth. It now offers many options for healthy exercise, as well as competitive athletic events.
There is something for everyone from the novice to the experienced ... the casual to the serious participant. Youngest athletes can register for summer development, giving them a chance to learn about the sport of track and field and have fun.
Older and more experienced youth have an opportunity to refine their athletic abilities through more rigorous and serious training and may qualify to compete in national and Olympic meets sanctioned by the U.S.A. Track and Field Association.
Finally, the Walking and Running Club for adults allows for all levels of participation and encourages exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Check www.chautauqua-striders.org for dates, times, registration forms, and ultimately, competition results.
As there are beginnings, there are also endings. After nine years with SAFARI, as tutor and coordinator, Josh Auflick will be leaving Chautauqua Striders to further his own academic pursuits.
SAFARI (Students Attaining Future Aspiration, Respect, and Inspiration) provides in-school tutoring for selected students at Jamestown High School. Rather than attending study halls, young people receive the individualized one-on-one help they need to assist them through the rigors of state testing and other challenges associated with high school. Josh has done an exemplary job, and though he will be missed, Josh is wished much future success -thank you.
What began in 1979 as a simple track club designed to offer a positive outlet for youthful energy has been transformed into a network of programs specifically aimed at enriching the lives of young people and their families.
The Chautauqua County community is invited to visit www.chautauqua-striders.org for the latest information on upcoming events and programming. Even though times have changed since its inception more than 30 years ago, the mission of Chautauqua Striders will always be, "dedicated to the mentoring and guidance of youth through education, advocacy and athletics."