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By Lois Thomson

Despite the changes and setbacks that can occur during the implementation of any program –especially one being executed during a pandemic – Monessen Middle School's inaugural MPACT Program was quite a success. MPACT – Monessen Positive Action Community Team – is an after-school program for 6th – 8th graders designed to improve student behavior and academic motivation.

Students who participated in the Monessen Middle School MPACT Program had an end-of-the-year celebration


The program is a collaboration between the Monessen School District, Monessen Communities that Care, and California University of Pennsylvania, with the latter arranging to have students serve in a paid internship capacity. It was written for Monessen by Dr. Mathilda Spencer, professor at Cal U, and Teresa Seh, Communities that Care project director. The original plan included six interns from the university, but just two – Casey McFarland and Idelia Confer-Robinson – saw the program through to the end.

It began with six students but gradually increased to 22. They met after school for one hour, two days a week, and while it was considerable work, both young ladies called it a success. "The kids said they wanted to do it more days and have longer hours," Confer-Robinson said. McFarland added, "It was a double-edged sword. It was more work, but we must have been doing something right. It is an education program, so for kids to say they want more, that's impressive."

Confer-Robinson will graduate in December, but plans to help with MPACT again through the fall. McFarland will be heading into graduate studies but said they will try to recruit and train more facilitators during the summer, and she plans to help virtually with mentoring the interns.

The program organizers held an End of the Year Celebration June 9 at the school, during which each of the students received a certificate and a gift bag. Darla Holmes, program coordinator, thanked everybody for their support, particularly Dr. Spencer, Seh, Eric Manko (principal, Monessen Middle School), and Donald Madzey (assistant principal, Monessen High School and Middle School).

She said she was grateful for the confidence shown to her and the interns, and "most of all, for the students being excited every Tuesday and Wednesday to learn and exercise positive actions in their academics, as well as in their personal lives. This program and the students gave me more than I gave to it. We realize this is not an overnight fix, but it is a start and hopefully will continue for years to come."

Dr. Spencer also encouraged the young people to "stay positive" during the summer, and urged them to spend time at the library.




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