By ALAN SMITH

Times-Herald

FORREST CITY — Voluntary learning might be the furthest thing from most teenagers’ minds during the summer, but a group of Forrest City High School students are doing just that. They are spending four days a week at the school focusing on the core skills of literacy and math in fun ways.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center Program is in its third year of providing a summer program to help students improve on both their classroom grades and test scores in the upcoming school year. Krystal Jackson, the 21st Century coordinator under director Sandra Jones, spoke about the summer session and the after-school program that runs during the school year.

“The 21st Century program is an after-school program during the school term, and the summer program is a continuation of that,” said Jackson. “We are in the third year of the summer program at the high school level. In the summer, we work on literacy and math, and this year we have enrichment areas of music and technology. The goal is to increase performance in the classroom and on tests such as the Benchmark, end-of-course tests and the ACT.”

The program is being held until mid July, on Mondays through Thursdays, from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., and is for students in ninth through 12th grades. Students in the program are provided breakfast, lunch and a snack free of charge. There are even field trips planned for the Clinton Library in Little Rock and the Forrest City Public Library.

“We want them to enjoy reading. That will help them in all of their classes and help them with class projects that require research.”

Jackson has been with the program for three years and said she has seen many of the students improve both academically and as young people.

“I’ve seen growth in the students who we’ve had here,” said Jackson. “Those students who attend regularly improve their test scores and grades, but I’ve seen their confidence improve. They improve as students; they do their homework and study more, which improves their grades. They are also more open to talk about their problems.”

According to Jackson, the after-school program will start again in mid-September and provides more help to students.

“The math and literacy are still focused on, along with ACT preparation and technology, but we are going to do some new things this fall,” Jackson said. “We are going to teach them some life skills to help them prepare to enter into the workforce. One thing we’d like to do is set up trial interviews with local businesses. The students will learn what an interview is like and what employers are looking for. We are also looking to start a book club.”

The after-school program is also held on Mondays through Thursdays, but from 3:30 to 5:40 p.m. Morning tutoring is also available from 7 to 8 a.m.

“The program is open to all FCHS students,” added Jackson. “We are still accepting applications for our summer program, along with the after-school program.”