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School News

By Lois Thomson

Monessen Middle School is implementing an after-school program for students in sixth through eighth-grade which will provide social and emotional learning intended to improve student behavior and academic motivation.

People involved in the MPACT Program at Monessen Middle School include, front row: interns Heidi Anderson, Siarra DeMidheoe, Idelia Confer-Robinson, and Casey McFarland. Back row: Teresa Seh, Communities that Care; Marsha Adams, Monessen Public Library; and Darla Holmes, MPACT program coordinator. Missing is intern Rebecca Staley.

Titled MPACT – Monessen Positive Action Community Team – the evidence-based project is a collaboration between the Monessen School District, California University of Pennsylvania, Monessen Communities that Care, and the Monessen Public Library. It was written for Monessen by Dr. Mathilda Spencer, a professor at Cal U, and Teresa Seh, project director for Communities that Care. Also involved in the program are Eric Manko, principal, Monessen Middle School; and Marsha Adams, children's coordinator, Monessen Public Library.

Darla Holmes is serving as program coordinator of MPACT, and five students from Cal U will be participating in a paid internship. While the program is expected to roll out in January, Holmes and the interns have already been making preparations. Holmes said the students will be pre-tested to get an idea of issues they may be struggling with, such as self-confidence, attendance, or bullying. "We can then use that data to create a framework of how best to deliver the information to the students, and meet them where they are," said Holmes.

Holmes is currently working with the interns during their training. She said they have invested considerable time and each has a special area of focus. One is in charge of social media; one is a musicologist – finding positive songs to keep students upbeat; another is a researcher seeking creative ways to engage the students – how they can be given rewards, how to keep them motivated, etc.

"Each intern has a specific job description or goal, but all work together as a team,” Holmes said.

She said the program is very well-written, adding, "I do like that we can implement things that are relevant to our children and our area. We in Monessen cannot implement the program and think we live in Mt. Lebanon or Upper St. Clair. We have to deal with the issues we have in Monessen."

Scheduled to be held at the school and the library, the program is open to all students in the middle school, with a maximum of 20 from each grade.

Holmes, who retired from Cal U in 2019 after 33 years as an administrative assistant, says interacting with students has been her life's work. "I've always been active in the community, and my passion is for our youth."

Developed in 1982, the Positive Action program has been used by thousands of teachers and counselors, among others, and has produced results ranging from 20 percent improvement in reading and 51 percent in math skills, to 62 percent reduction in violence.




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