Bard students, school districts join forces for after-school venture

“This is not your typical after-school program,” boasts Bard College’s informational sheet on the new Maple Lane Community Center (MLCC). Indeed, the program has Bard College students providing homework help and mentorship to students in grades 5 through 8 from northern Red Hook and Germantown school districts.

This new community partnership among Bard College, Germantown Central School District, and Red Hook Central School district is housed in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Elizaville. Services are currently offered primarily to students who live in Livingston. Transportation to the church will be provided to these students.

“This is our opportunity to start reaching out to smaller, rural communities,” Nate Zeitlin, Local Outreach Volunteer Coordinator at Bard College, said.

“The cool thing about this program is that we help them with about one hour of homework, and then we do mentoring projects,” added Zeitlin, who graduated from Bard last year.

Jesse Weiss, Volunteer Leader at the MLCC and a Bard first-year student, said he hopes to help introduce students to disciplines they might not learn about in traditional schooling. For example, members of the Bard Bike Co-op will teach workshops in bicycle repair. Students will also have the opportunity to explore music, painting, poetry, and fields they might not have previously encountered.

Funding for this project comes from a three-year VISTA grant given to the Bard Center for Civic Engagement. This grant, issued by AmeriCorps, aims to “promote community partnerships to develop civic engagement opportunities at Bard,” Zeitlin said.

The program, which will meet every Tuesday and Wednesday starting Jan. 29, currently involves 25 Bard volunteers and about 20 Red Hook and Germantown students. “It’s a good medium for Bard… to give back,” said Weiss. “It’s an important community partnership,” he said.

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