NEWTON GROVE — Inside a classroom at Hobbton Middle School, local artist Robert Hall worked with youths Friday morning as they cut and snipped paper, while making creative designs.
At the UPLIFT Summer Academy, Cameron Hand was one of those students learning to expand his imagination. For a few weeks, close to 60 students were involved in sessions involving English Language Arts, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, recreation, music, and fitness. UPLIFT stands for “Using Positive Lessons to Improve our Future Tomorrows.”
“I really learned a lot here and different types of skills like working in teams,” said Hand, a rising sixth-grader going to the middle school in the future. “It keeps me from being board, so that’s another great thing.”
Hand also enjoyed having fun, but learning during the process too.
“It helps us a lot going into the school year,” Hand said.
UPLIFT is operated through Project Outreach with Faison serving as the executive director. It was formed in the late 1990s as a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide academic and life skills enrichment. Federal money is provided for the program, which helps with needs such as meals during the day.
Glenn Faison, program leader, expressed how the program teaches students to become leaders and to think outside the box.
“A lot of them were quiet in the beginning, but now they have leadership roles,” Faison said. “I’m very proud of that and courage that they show.
Along with Hall, one of the other highlights included a visit from Joe Vickers of the School Beats Academy, based out of Jacksonville, Fla. The program uses art and music to help students to become engaged with STEM.
Ron Whitted visited the school to teach children about Taekwondo, a Korean style of martial arts that teaches self discipline.
During the last week of the academy, students and program leaders took field trips for activities such as bowling and to a movie theater. They also traveled to Wilmington to see the USS Battleship North Carolina. Faison emphasized the importance of participants taking trips and having experiences away from their hometown.
During the school year, the 21st Century Afterschool program is held at Hobbton Elementary, HMS, and Hargrove Elementary. More than 200 students participate. Faison said the students show growth in learning and improving test scores, which he said was at a 100 percent improvement rate. He was also proud that a few educators who were involved in Uplift earned Teacher of the Years recognition at some point in their respective schools in Sampson County or Cumberland County districts. While speaking about the accomplishments of the program, he was grateful for the support and hopes federal grants will continue to help others in the future.
Jayleen Atkinson, a 13-year-old HMS student, benefited from development such as team building and learning outside a traditional classroom setting. He enjoyed learning about future opportunities in subjects such as math.
“Here, there’s something new everyday and you get to try different things,” Atkinson said.