A grant through the Stackpole-Hall Foundation has initiated an out-of-school youth program to be carried out by a collaboration with the Ridgway YMCA and the Elk County 4-H Program.
The 4-H program will open the door for Elk County children between the ages of eight and 18 years old to learn leadership, teamwork and other valuable skills that will encourage them to be proactive forces within the community.
According to 4-H Out-Of-School Programs Coordinator Jody Johnson, the program will focus on a variety of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] activities.
"It is all hands-on," Johnson said. "We will be doing hands-on science projects and other things of that nature."
Johnson said students can expect to make their own slimes and silly putties to learn about polymers.
"We also have a crafting aspect in there, too," Johnson said. "We were just talking about a sewing project where kids draw their own monsters and turn them into pillows."
Natalie Aiello, 4-H youth development educator for Elk and Cameron counties, stressed that it is a hands-on program.
"I don't want kids to think that they are coming here and it is going to be like school and they are being lectured," Aiello said. "It is very hands-on."
According to Stackpole-Hall Foundation treasurer Dennis Bonanno, $27,500 was given for the first year and Stackpole has agreed to review the program after a year and provide funding for a potential three additional years.
"On behalf of the YMCA, we very are excited to get a new program in for the new year," said Ridgway YMCA Executive Director Mary Lynne Bellotti. "We really need youth programs in here. This is the best thing that has happened to our YMCA, other than the health and fitness end of it. I offer 27 programs for fitness, so to have this now coming in as a youth program is huge. It is something that we have wanted for a long time."
Pick up a copy of the Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.