By T. Rasmussen
This years Weiser Chamber of Commerce Award for Student Organization of the Year goes to the Weiser School Districts B.E.S.T. program. The B.E.S.T. program offers academic assistance and enrichment opportunities for youth in the Weiser School District.The program is in its fifth year of its second grant cycle and hopes to be regranted in the spring. Currently they are serving 114 students and their families from grades two through eight. The B.E.S.T. program runs four days a week with usually an hour spent on academics and an hour of enrichment activities at each building.
Academically the program helps students with their daily school work, focusing on math and reading, and helps students to achieve success in the classroom and on state testing. Co-Director Cora Walker shared, “We set goals for accelerated reading points. We try to help them to achieve success on the Idaho Reader Indicator and their ISAT tests. We are supporting the classroom. We are supporting the home and we are working together to help students get on grade level.” The B.E.S.T. program has teaching staff, para educators and even junior and senior high students who work daily to help educate and tutor students in the program. Walker shared that there is a low student to adult ratio in the program so each student is getting the help they need.
The program partners with the University of Idaho 4-H Extension office to offer STEM based enrichment activities. The curriculum the partners use is different for each building, but is inline with Science, Technologie, Engineering and Mathematics. Recently a grant written by Co-Director Timbra Long was received and was used to take B.E.S.T. students to the Discovery Center of Idaho, The Interpretive Center in Baker, Oregon and to put on a formal dinner for the students before they attended the play Aladdin at the Four River Cultural Center. The program spends at least a hundred days serving its students. Twenty of those days are used for family enrichment days. “Parents are always invited to attend our Saturday activities,'' stated Walker. Recently the program was running a three week parent and student walking challenge on Saturday mornings and last week they held a tennis clinic for students and their parents.The program is working on a “Homework Saturday” where parents and students can come into the schools and get help with their child's work. During the winter months there are family activities being planned such as dancing and exercise classes.
This summer the program along with Marabella's finished off a three year long community project, “That was brainstormed by our past Co-Directors, Renee Sweet and Megan Overgaard, along with Marabella owner Sandy Pritchard. They came up with a mural design and B.E.S.T. students painted the tiles. There were countless hours and volunteers who helped with it as well. It’s just beautiful”, shared Walker. The community mural hangs on the east side of Marabellas and can be viewed while driving down State Street.
Walker shared her thoughts on the B.E.S.T. program receiving the Chamber of Commerce Student Organization of the Year, “I feel very honored and happy that we are recognized in the community. That they feel we are an asset to educating the children. It’s nice to get the recognition.” Walker says she believes the program has been so successful because of all who are involved, “The success of the program is the sincere dedication by each individual involved with B.E.S.T. The commitment from the administration, teachers, paraprofessionals, student tutors, bus drivers, support staff at each school, community helpers and parents giving 100% to provide the best enrichment activities, academic learning and student safety each day.”
Congratulations to the B.E.S.T. program and thank you for you dedication to the students, their families and the community.