Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 03-18-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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20 CUMBERLAND MARCH 18-24, 2021 | VALLEY BREEZE | CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION Island must also focus on proactively addressing the COVID-19 learn- ing loss that so many students have experienced," said Andrea Palagi, McKee's communications director. "In Cumberland, the OCYL provides young people with year-round learn- ing opportunities that go beyond the standard school day in areas like sci- ence, art, math, technology, literacy and more. (McKee) believes munici- pal education offices can help commu- nities bridge the learning gap caused by this pandemic." Asked about the benefits of an office such as OCYL, McKee believes that "fostering a comprehensive and inclu- sive learning environment for young people is a benefit to the community at large," which is something he priori- tized while he was mayor, Palagi said. "The OCYL allows the entire commu- nity to become engaged in the educa- tion and welfare of its young people." OCYL, located at the Cumberland Monastery, 1464 Diamond Hill Road, is an education center offering year-round educational oppor- tunities for youth. Programs are divided into three major initia- tives: Early childhood education, for children up to 5 years old; the STEAM shop, for grades K-9; and back- pack to briefcase, for grades 7-12. "All of our programs have intentional con- tent for students," Liz Lemire White, director of OCYL, told The Breeze, adding that participating in OCYL also provides a real connection to the community. "The underlying goal (of OCYL) is to be here for what the commu- nity needs." Over the years, Lemire White said, staff has had inquiries from other com- munities, such as North Providence and Middletown, about how the OCYL works. She said her message to munici- palities is to first figure out what its communi- ties' wants and needs are. "Some communi- ties could offer some- thing similar to this and also offer adult education," she said, noting that their staff is too small right now to offer adult ed pro- grams. The office, which is a department of the town of Cumberland, receives operational and administrative funding and support by the town, while programs are paid for through sign-up fees, sponsorships, grants, and donations. OCYL offers finan- cial aid to qualifying Cumberland residents. Staff at OCYL "believe that the out- of-school time hours and preschool years provide an invaluable oppor- tunity for each child to engage and explore in their own learning through unique, enriching educational pro- grams," states its website. On average (not during the pandemic), she noted, they'll serve approximately 750-800 students per year, 400 children during the summer, and offer 1,500 classes. While programs are open to youth outside of Cumberland, she said that they tend to fill up with Cumberland students very quickly. The pandemic has put some pro- grams on hold, but last summer they were able to offer summer camp, fol- lowing health and safety guidelines, and in the fall they were able to bring preschoolers back, Lemire White noted. "It felt good to bring the kids back," she said. Looking to the future, she said they'd like to acquire more classroom space. Staff also hope to grow a new free college advising initiative and launch the Our Minds Matter initia- tive, she said. Our Minds Matter will be a mental health program for middle school stu- dents, hopefully starting at McCourt Middle School and expanding to North Cumberland Middle School, she said. Working with partnering agencies, it will provide students with access to resources and trusted adults and will allow them to express how they're feeling through fun, low-risk creative arts experiences. OCYL also runs the Cumberland Youth Commission, a year-round program for teens interested in com- munity service. On March 5, the Commission loaded up cars with bags and boxes of food donations they col- lected for the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry in Cumberland. Teens collected 30 to 40 grocery bags' worth of food, not including a dozen boxes of food donations from Dave's Market, said Jamie Droste, K-12 program coordinator at OCYL. "It surprised the kids how successful it was," she said. "We just had a real out- pouring of support." The teens, having read about increased activity at the NRI Food Pantry due to the pandemic in an article in The Breeze, wanted to help, Droste said, so they reached out to officials at the food pantry who gave them a list of foods they needed. One of the Youth Commission members, Lydia Stinnett, canvassed her neighborhood with her mom, dropping off flyers to let people know they could leave a bag of food outside their door on a specific date, Droste said. She noted they ended up filling two station wagons with food. "It was a really tremendous show of support from the community," she said. Stinnett, a 16-year-old Cumberland resident, told The Breeze that she's really happy with the outcome of the food drive, noting that the drive is important because everyone deserves to have enough food to eat. The group's next initiative is to cre- ate and provide small container gar- dens for senior citizens who are food insecure. Droste said they are looking for donations of clean 5-gallon buck- ets to serve as the container gardens, as well as soil and seeds for tomato and zucchini plants. Those interested in supporting the project can email jdroste@cumberlandri.org . Droste added that the Youth Commission is always looking for new members. To learn more about OCYL, visit www.cumberlandri.org/office-of-chil- dren-youth-and-learning . BREEZE PHOTO BY ROBERT EMERSON DAVID LANOUE packs one of two vehicles with food, collected by the Cumberland Youth Commission, to be donated to the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry in Cumberland on March 5. OCYL From Page One

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