Back to school for summer enrichment
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – During the school year, Jean Brunell is a family and consumer science teacher at Shrewsbury High School (SHS). For the fifth year, she’s directing the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) for the town’s elementary school students. Held at Floral Street Elementary School, the program offers four weeks of four-day courses with a fun approach to the arts, athletics and academics.
Formerly an elementary school teacher, Brunell appreciates that the program has taken her full circle.
“It brings me back to working with younger children,” she said, “and I still have a connection with the high school students.”
When Brunell started as program director, she invited high school students to volunteer as teacher’s assistants.
“With the volunteers, we have all these extra sets of hands helping us, and that makes it run even more smoothly,” she said. “Now, I don’t think we could run the program without them.”
Caroline McQuade, who is a rising sophomore at SHS, offered to volunteer this summer because she enjoyed participating in the program while in grades one through four.
“I remember as a kid looking up to the volunteers,” she said.
Among the courses McQuade took while an elementary student was a crafts class, and she has kept items she made as mementos. Another fond memory is a television production class.
“It’s like going to summer camp because you’re having fun, but it’s also educational,” she said. “I want to be a teacher, so I wanted to get experience here.”
This is the second year as a volunteer for Zubar Aleer, a rising junior at SHS. When younger, he took a LEGOS robotics course.
“I liked making LEGO creations and I liked the dynamics of robotics,” he said. “We were able to put the two exciting elements together.”
Aleer volunteered last year with two computer courses, exploring web design and digital photography. This year he’s helping with an iPad class.
“I might be able to add my experience with technology to help younger children,” he said.
As third-graders, Carl Underkofler and Austin Rook took a course together called “Sports Center for Kids.” Now high school students, both are volunteering this summer for that same course.
“Now I see it’s a lot of work for the teachers,” said Underkofler, who is a rising sophomore at SHS.
A Shrewsbury resident, Rook is a rising sophomore at the Rivers School, a private school in Weston.
“We have to do 30 hours of community service before senior year,” Rook said. “I try to connect with the kids and let them know I’m there for them if they need any help.”
Brunell said many SHS students volunteer with this and other programs for community service hours. Over 130 high school students are volunteering with SEP this year.
The program also benefits from SHS graduates’ involvement. Last year, after a theater course was promoted and registrations were taken, the teacher was unable to fulfill the commitment. Looking for a substitute, Brunell contacted a 2010 SHS graduate Dan Monopoli. He agreed to teach that class, and returned this summer to instruct four theater courses.
“Dan performed theater all throughout high school,” Brunell said, “so I knew he’d be a perfect fit for us.”
Monopoli is entering junior year at Westfield State University as a communications major.
“It’s really valuable to expose young children to the arts; it teaches them to look at life through a wide variety of lenses,” he said. “This summer program is a great environment for children.”
Brunell credited the program’s success to the staff’s ongoing dedication.
“They prepare for these classes all year long,” she said.
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