What’s Happening At The Newburgh Armory?
By James McVey
The Newburgh Armory Unity Center (NAUC) continues to grow and improve the community while consistently adhering to its goal to, “eliminate poverty through education”. The newest program that was added is swimming, which utilizes the pool located inside of Mount Saint Mary College’s Kaplan Recreation Center. Each hour there is a shuttle that takes students from the armory to the pool where instructors await to share the joys of swimming with young students.
Two programs that have seen both major growth and results among learners are, “Dare to be a Wild Reader” and “Scholars in Scrubs”.
The former was designed primarily by Dr. Janine Bixler, who is head of the education committee at the armory and a professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College. The program reinforces literacy skills taught in school, while having fun in a casual environment. The volunteers in this program are referred to as “Buddies” and by dedicating their time on Saturday mornings they make it clear that reading is not just a school activity, but rather a life skill. More importantly, they share the genuine joy that reading can bring into one’s life. In this program child learners all take a trip to the in-house library to enjoy the privilege of selecting their own reading material, and keep a journal to document their literary adventures. Students have the opportunity to share new vocabulary words that they have discovered, which shares knowledge with their peers and empowers their ability to speak to a room full of people. One of the many reasons for this program’s continued success is that it gives students a goal to read. After participating in this program students will have a better idea of where to find books, and will have created habits that will help them finish books with the belief that good reading habits inevitably lead to good reading skills.
A focus on literacy and vocabulary expansion are prevalent in almost all of the Armory’s meticulously designed programs. “Scholars in Scrubs” teaches information to students that they can in turn share with their families or caregivers, ultimately creating a safer community for all. Recent topics covered in that program include but are not limited to: CPR, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, sunburn, dehydration, and how to check a pulse. Linda, the program’s lead volunteer says the reward is “in watching the children grow” and that you know “this is going to mean something.” The level of depth in subject matter is tailored to the age of the participants. A large portion of its volunteers are either students or recent graduates of Newburgh Free Academy.
Numerous studies have concluded that if a child is not reading at grade level by the 3rd grade, the child will likely continue to experience academic struggles. The Newburgh Armory Unity Center offers programs to enrich children’s abilities every Saturday between 8am and 1pm. There is a current offering of 45 unique programs, and everything is free to participants. The NAUC is a 501(c)(3) that is self sufficient, funded by small grants and renting out the facility during the week. Every Saturday offers enrichment programs, for 52 weeks a year with no cancellations. As Director of Operations Max Cuacuas said, “it is important that the children have consistency”. What sets NAUC apart from other programs is the passion and professionalism of its volunteers, and the amount of progress that occurs when a community works together for the benefit of all. When Mr. Kaplan asked, “Isn’t this place amazing?”, I knew that the short answer was yes, but the real answer is that it is so much more than that.
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(Photos by James McVey)