EDITORIAL: The Susquehanna River is our outdoor classroom

York Dispatch
  • CBF program gives students a chance to explore the Susquehanna River
  • College food banks address students' growing food insecurity issues
  • Wisdom meets potential in volunteer program that pairs seniors with children

Thumbs Up: To the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its Susquehanna Watershed Education Program which recently hosted 18 seventh- and eighth-graders from Crossroads Middle School in West Shore School District for a canoe trip down the Susquehanna River.

The program, one of the 15 field education programs offered by the foundation, gives students a chance to take advantage of the outdoor classroom that is the Susquehanna River. They learned things about the river’s history, its significance to the Chesapeake Bay, marine life and water health. And, if they didn’t already know, how to canoe properly.

Chase Maynard, center, and Ryan Gordon, both 13, try to catch crayfish in the Susquehanna River, Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

For some students it was their first trek onto the river.

"I hope that in the middle of learning facts, I hope they get excited about learning and want to do more of it on their own…that inspires them to want to get out and learn," American history teacher Linda Niesen said.

The was the first trip of this season — the SWEP team alone is working with 20 regional groups of students in 12 counties, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Floating classroom provides hands-on learning

"Hopefully through the enjoyment of nature, they can make those connections and make small decisions about how they impact the environment," said Tom Parke, SWEP teacher.

Thumbs Up: To the senior tutoring program created by RSVP of the Capital Region. The volunteer organization for the over-55 crowd currently has 16 tutors who work in York County and serve three school districts including York City.

With parent volunteer rates on the decline there's a dire need in York County for more tutors and volunteers in the school districts in general. These seniors in the three-year-old program fill that void and make a difference in student’s lives.

Tutor Alan Dubs fist-bumps first-grader Jaylen Laboriel, 6, after going over the student's alphabet letters Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, at Arthur W. Ferguson School in York City. Amanda J. Cain photo

"When I taught, I was fortunate because I had a lot of parent volunteers, but that just isn’t the case anymore with a lot of the districts, not just the city district," says volunteer and retired teacher Patti Hullman.

Volunteers are given a flexible schedule and can choose the school and hours committed. Top volunteer Alan Dubs chose Ferguson K-8 which his daughter attended. He spends about 35 hours per week there.

Wisdom meets potential in senior tutoring program

"It’s so rewarding. It gives you a sense of purpose," Dubs said. "When I go into school, I tell a lot of them that I’m their temporary in-house parent or grandparent, and I’m going to treat them just like they’re my child."

Situation: win-win!

Thumbs Up: To the Penn State York and York College food pantries. Both anonymously provide food for students in need.

Student workers ShaiQuana Bailey, left, and Suharis Pesantez, both of York City, work to shelve donated food products for the new food pantry in the SAU building Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, at York College. Food will be distributed twice a month on Fridays. Amanda J. Cain photo

College food insecurity is becoming an issue on campuses across the nation. The Feeding America's 2014 Hunger in America report estimates that of its approximately 2 million adult college student clients, 30.5 percent of them were forced to choose between food and educational expenses throughout the year.

Battling college food insecurity

"If food is a need, it's hard to do anything else associated with college," Darrien Davenport, the assistant dean of student affairs at York College said.

The importance of anonymity is paramount for the York College program, where students schedule pick-ups times via email and take the food in unmarked bags. Only a very small number of administrators have access to the emails, and even fewer people give the food to the students.

"If a student doesn't have any type of solid and consistent nourishment, it's going to be difficult for a student to do other things on campus to be successful here at York College," Davenport said.