MILLEDGEVILLE — The Youth Enrichment Services (YES) program serves 1,000 youth in the Baldwin County public school system each year. Through funding made possible by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the high school YES program expanded to include a summer school this year as a way to provide a bridge for 90 rising freshmen ready to transition in the fall.
“This is the first year for YES Summer School, which is a four-week program that runs three and a half days a week. Our focus is the academics, and we want to make sure that students are better prepared for expectations in English/language arts and math,” said Julie Cook, Baldwin High School YES program instructor. “We have an educational team comprised of the top Baldwin High School teachers and the highest performing students from Georgia College to assist each student individually to assure academic gain and to provide top-notch academic enrichments.”
First year YES program student Siani Duggan, 14, said the summer school has given her the opportunity to excel in various subject areas while making her feel comfortable and ready to make the transition to high school.
“I like the YES program because it’s a new experience. It really shows you the life of a high-schooler. I was having trouble in math because I didn’t know variables, but my teacher taught me how to break it down bit by bit,” Duggan said. “The program also teaches you responsibilities. I love all of my teachers and I thank the YES program for everything they have done for me. I really enjoy it.”
Cook said the high school YES program has been recognized as a top program in Georgia for the past two years.
“It’s because of the Baldwin High School administration who have always been so supportive of everything we’ve requested. We couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “Another part of us being recognized is because I use a warm and firm approach with the students. We try to help them academically and help them prepare for life, but we include respect and consideration.”
Students in the YES Summer School also take part in various enrichment activities, including engineering, drumming, health care science, culinary arts, cosmetology, digital media and library research. David Perdue with S.A.G.E. (Students Affecting Generations Everywhere) partnered with the summer program to provide students a physical fitness outlet.
“We do assessments on kids and give them pedometers to track their steps,” Perdue said. “We also do a nutritional component along with the fitness component.”
Javian Lawson, a rising sophomore and second year YES program student, decided to take advantage of the summer school as an opportunity to continue enhancing his academics.
“I thought you never can learn too much. I knew I could be better and do better than I did last year,” said Lawson, who aims to pursue a career in the military or as an actor or artist after graduation. “It’s helped me a lot with things I didn’t know. You learn a lot in the YES program and you can still have fun.”
The summer component will conclude today with a short culmination ceremony to thank parents and showcase talents of participating youth.
“I’ll be part of the group rapping about Edgar Allan Poe,” said Da’Quan Shelley, 14. “I definitely recommend the YES program to other students. It’s a lot of fun and it has helped me understand math.”
The YES program during the regular school year kicks off in September and will continue each day after school from 3 to 5 p.m. through the beginning of May. The program’s mission is to raise achievement and educational aspirations for students in grades three through 12 each school day, ultimately aiming for students to work together in order to build a whole community that says “yes” to making promises come true. YES is a collaborative project of Georgia College, the Baldwin County Board of Education and Baldwin County Parks and Recreation.
“Coming to the ninth grade from middle school is intimidating. These students will come in more relaxed and comfortable because they know where the classrooms are and they’ve met some teachers they may or may not have. Overall we provide them with a comfort since the first day and we will do the summer school again next year,” Cook said. “This fall we will be serving 80 students in grades nine through 12 with a focus on ninth-grade students. Last year we served 100 students. This is not a daycare after school; we have really high expectations and we have goals to attain academically.”
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