Programs feature homework help, more

Eighth-grade student Amberlyn Sears, front left, and other students at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School are taking part in a popular after-school program called Project ISAAC.

BUCKHANNON — An after-school program starting out at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School is so successful that there is a waiting list of students who actually want to stay after class and get help with their homework.

The program, called Project ISAAC for Increasing Student Achievement, Advancing Communities, is designed to help students with homework and improve their basic skills in reading and math. It also includes tutoring, computer time, enrichment and recreation activities, along with speakers from the community, field trips and a healthy snack.

“It’s not just work, work, work. It’s social time, too,” said James Rubal, director of Project ISAAC for West Virginia Regional Education Services Agency 7.

Schools throughout the region take part in the five-year program, which is federally funded and offered free to students. Rubal said RESA 7 coordinates Project ISAAC in eight sites in seven counties, serving 13 schools. The counties include Upshur, Randolph, Barbour, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor and Harrison.

While the program is just getting started at B-UMS this month, site coordinator Carolyn Blend said it’s exciting to see how many students already are getting help with schoolwork and improving their grades.

Sixth-graders Samantha Sproul, right, and Hannah Martin play bingo during Wednesday’s Family Night event at Elkins Middle School, which offered games, pizza and the opportunity to learn more about an after-school program called Project ISAAC.

She said the program has slots for 65 students at this time, and there is a waiting list with about 25 more who are interested.

“We’re listening to parent input and getting kids’ input today,” Blend said, adding she enjoys seeing the students outside of the regular school day in a more relaxed environment.

Assistant site coordinator Joey Hochgesang said the program has been getting better each day for students and staff.

“This program is going to blossom into a beautiful thing for these kids,” Hochgesang said, adding that parents and students alike are interested in the homework help and the social interaction.

Seventh-grader Olivia Hite said she likes Project ISAAC so far, mainly because she can get help with her homework.

“I have a bad grade in math and I’m trying to get that up,” Hite said.

Her friend Breanna Perry, an eighth-grader, said she likes the homework help, too.

“They have the books and stuff we need,” Perry said, adding the program includes time for school work, but “then the rest is fun stuff,” such as music, painting and creating their own musical instruments.

Upshur County has hosted Project ISAAC at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School, and Blend said it’s great that the program can be offered at B-UMS.

In Randolph County, Elkins Middle School is in its third year of Project ISAAC.

Site coordinator Nick Alfred said there are 45 students registered right now, and about 25 have been attending regularly.

That changes throughout the school year, he said, particularly when students run into tough math assignments.

“Our priority is homework help,” Alfred said. “That’s a big draw. We have parents who call and say, ‘My kid needs help with homework,’ and we tell them about our after-school program.”

He said the students also enjoy socializing and eating snacks.

Wednesday night, EMS hosted a Family Night so students and their parents could learn about Project ISAAC, enjoy pizza and play BINGO together. The families had a chance to win baskets that were donated by school clubs.

Jennifer Drake, the Project ISAAC family and community engagement coordinator at EMS, said in addition to homework help and activities, the students also get to hear from guest speakers and different people who come to talk about their careers.

Drake said one person came in and cooked with the kids; a representative from Make It Shine spoke to students; and someone from Women’s Aid in Crisis talked to children about healthy relationships.

Project ISAAC, a 21st Century Community Learning Center program through RESA 7, is funded wholly or in part by a grant from the United States Department of Education under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IV Part B, with grant administration carried out by the West Virginia Department of Education.

Anyone who would be interested in volunteering, sharing a learning program with students or making donations to the program at Elkins Middle School can contact Drake at 304-636-9176 or email

Anyone who would be interested in volunteering, sharing a learning program with students or making donations to the program at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School can contact Lisa Crites at 304-472-1520, ext. 3128, or