Two of the most popular programs in the Cambridge City School District will continue for five more years thanks to two new 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants recently awarded to the school district.
The 21st Century grant funds Cambridge’s CATS Club afterschool program and its Summer CATS Camp program. The two new grants, one for the elementary schools and one for the high school, will provide $1.7 million to fund the programs.
CATS Campers learn about animals during a visit from the Columbus Zoo at CATS Camp this summer. This is just one of the many activities that campers experience during CATS Camp.
“While intended to help students who have fallen behind or need extra academic support, the CATS Club and CATS Camp programs also provide a fun and hands-on learning experience for more than a quarter of the district’s students,” pointed out Rose Marie Daymut, Director of Federal Funds.
CATS Club and CATS Camp officially have four components: Reading intervention or enrichment, social-emotional learning, math intervention, and family engagement. Many would argue, however, that the best component is fun.
And how could a kid not have fun?
The afterschool program brings in special guests from the Deerassic Education Center, the Guernsey County Public Library and Muskingum Valley Health Centers, that lead activities like archery, and craft projects.
The summer program is highlighted by trips to Deerassic Education Center, the Cambridge City Pool, the Cambridge City Park, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, COSI, and Salt Fork State Park. Family engagement activities included game nights, a festival, and a trip to see a Guardian’s baseball game for Intermediate, Middle and High School students and their families, and a trip to Legoland for our younger students and families.
Many of the students in the program – and their family members – are experiencing many activities and events for the very first time through the CATS Camp and the funding that makes all these activities and both programs free for our families.
While the experiences make both the CATS Club and the CATS Camp fun, the reading and math intervention and enrichment help students catch up to or grow beyond academic expectations.
An example is the 13 third graders who at the end of the most recent school year, were legally required to be retained for another year in third grade. After attending Summer CATS Camp and working in small groups or one-on-one with our teachers, all 13 were able to pass the required test and be promoted to fourth grade.
“Our teachers do a great job working with our students,” said CATS Camp and CATS Club director Robin Lahmers. “We have great teachers in the program who enjoy the educational environment we have created in these programs.”
The smaller number of students and the flexibility of the program allows teachers to build relationships with students that they do not have the opportunity to do during a regular school year.
“We survey our teachers and aides, and we know they like small groups,” Lahmers said. “We try to keep the teacher to student ratio at 1-12 or lower. Putting students in small groups with experienced teachers working with them really benefits the students.”
Lahmers praises the teachers and aides who are willing to work in the program. During the school year, many teachers work an extra three-hours per day in the CATS Club after school program. Many choose to work the CATS Camp during summer break as well. More than 50 teachers and 50 aides taught this past summer.
“We have the best teachers in the state of Ohio,” Lahmers said. “They don’t have to do this, but they do. They could go home and chill, but they choose to work with our students, and they seem to enjoy it.”
According to Lahmers, teachers enjoy it because they get more freedom to choose what they want to teach, they have time to play games with the kids and they can build relationships.
The students must enjoy the programs as well as the number of participants continues to grow each school year. Last summer, nearly 500 students participated in CATS Camp and more than 200 students participated in the CATS Club after school program.
Thanks to the funding, both programs are free to Cambridge students and their families.
“It is a safe place for three hours after school,” Lahmers pointed out. “We provide them with a snack, provide help with their homework, and we make it fun.
“I think the parents, especially working parents, appreciate the program because they don’t have to worry about their children being home alone. Plus, since we work with them on their homework, parents don’t have to spend time helping them at home. It allows more quality time for parents and students.”
Middle School CATS Camp students visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio this summer. The trip was just one of the many activities CATS Campers participated in.
It also saves parents money that they do not have to spend paying for after school care or babysitting.
The two new 21st Century Community Learning Center grants each provide Cambridge with $200,000 for the next three years, $150,000 in the fourth year and $100,000 in the fifth year as long as the district maintains compliance and writes a continuation plan for the grants each year.
In addition, the current 21st Century grant at the Middle School is in its fourth year meaning there is $150,000 in grant funding for the Middle School this year and $100,000 next year.
Cambridge Schools also partners with Muskingum Valley Health Centers for a Summer Learning and After School Opportunities Grant called the Create and Expand grants. The Middle School was awarded an Expand grant for $126,410 over three years, while the elementary schools and high school were awarded a Create Grant for $781,728 over three years. Both grants are in their third year in 2023-2024.
“In a short period of time, these programs have become a way of life for our kids,” Daymut added. “It is important that our kids and families have these programs.”