Getting the chance to work at the Clarion Community Learning Workshop afforded Camron Kirkland the opportunity to put his education to use before he graduated May 13, as well as pass on what he learned to another community center.
Kirkland worked at the Clarion Community Learning Workshop in Clarion last year under the Civic Engagement Scholarship. He received the scholarship in exchange for 10-12 academic community service hours. His work at the Clarion center was as the tutoring program intern where he tutored students who came to the center, trained volunteers, recruited additional volunteers and maintained the workshop's online presence.
Kirkland is grateful for his time at the Community Learning Workshop and is thankful he could take his experiences to the Redbank Valley Community Center where an after school tutoring program was started last year and needed assistance when the director of the community center stepped down. Kirkland became the elementary tutoring center coordinator.
"Camron stepped in at a critical time when our director stepped down," said Redbank
Valley Community Center board member Rhonda McMillen-Toth. "He had a real interest
and concern in serving not only the center, but the students."
The transition was easy for Kirkland.
"I drew from my experience there (at the Clarion Community Learning Workshop). I got to see how a center runs efficiently and effectively," Kirkland said.
The Redbank Valley Community Center's tutoring center is open starting at 3 until
4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The hope, Kirkland said, is that the center
can be built up enough to have more tutoring hours. Increasing the center's hours,
means increasing the number of volunteers and support from the community.
Support can be in the form of financial contributions, but can also be in the form of supplies such as white boards, graphing paper, SAT prep books and books for the library, Kirkland explained.
Right now, about 50 students utilize the center each week, McMillen-Toth said.
Kirkland said the Redbank Valley National Honor Society sends two or three students a day to help with tutoring.
Redbank Valley High School Student Zoe Henry was instrumental in organizing student schedules.
"It was cool to see them invest in their own community," Kirkland said of the Redbank Valley students.
Also, many retired teachers in the New Bethlehem area volunteer time at the center as tutors, he added.
Kirkland, who was busy student teaching math at Oil City High School, wasn't able to be there through the week, but would like to see the center grow and succeed since he sees the value in these centers in small rural communities.
"It's huge for the community. For small towns where there's not always a lot of things happening, these community centers are an important resource for the community," Kirkland said.
He said in addition to the tutoring center, the Redbank Valley Community Center offers health and fitness programs, GED courses and events for people of all ages.
McMillen-Toth said the center has developed a real partnership with the Clarion Community Learning Workshop which brings monthly programming to the tutoring center.
Much of that has to do with Kirkland's efforts developing his skills at both centers.
"I would say that Camron was a vital part of our development at the Clarion Community Learning Workshop," said Rich Lane, Ph.D., and Community Learning Workshop co-founder. "His energy and creativity influenced the students and volunteers at the Workshop in extremely positive ways. While at the Workshop, we formed a relationship with the site in Redbank and we were happy that Cam was able to bring the process and ideas to that site in order to build their center and widen the help that we all give students in Clarion county and surrounding areas."
As for the Redbank Valley Community Center, it continues to grow with its philosophy of encouraging, entertaining and educating the community. Events include a Mom's coffee, yoga, senior driver's class, Santa's hotline, a volleyball tournament, a trail run, a wellness series and building rental opportunities.
"There are a lot of opportunities to get involved. Contact the Redbank Valley Community Center for more information or to volunteer at 814-457-5033," McMillen-Toth said.