The Canal Winchester Middle School's KIDSConnect program wrapped up another successful year according to students and staff who presented a year in review to City Council May 21.

The Canal Winchester Middle School's KIDSConnect program wrapped up another successful year according to students and staff who presented a year in review to City Council May 21.

KIDSConnect is an award-winning program based around service and project learning which also provides academic assistance to students, said Darlene Scheid, Program Specialist.

The program operates in the Canal Winchester, Hamilton, (Whitehall) Rosemore and Groveport-Madison Middle School North and Middle School South.

It began in 1996 as the Rickenbacker Community Partnership to give middle school students a safe place to go and learn after school.

Canal Winchester Middle School student Julian Brooks explained how his group took on the goal of completing a community project around teen wellness.

"We get to do a service project every year and this year along with community members we chose to do teen wellness: mental, emotional and physical," Brooks said.

"At the end we held a healthy dinner (May 4 for parents and staff) and we created a cookbook for purchase focused on healthy eating habits called The ABCs of Healthy Eating."

Program Manager Lindsay Western said she was proud of the students' work.

"They raised $70 during the event and will continue selling the books," Western said.

"The kids worked really hard on them and we want to thank the city for its ongoing support of our program.It's that support that helps to make this a success."

The United Way provides a majority of the program funding.

However, each city in the Rickenbacker Area Partnership also helps to fund the program financially, while the Canal Winchester Schools provide in-kind contributions, Scheid said.

Students enter the program after being nominated by teachers and staff.

Usually students are chosen because they stand out in a way that might present a challenge for them in the future. To assist with those challenges, the program includes mentoring, joining together high school students with the middle schoolers.

"The mentoring program runs for two hours after school twice a month, for the first hour the kids pair up and do one-on-one mentoring with homework assistance and reading comprehension, then we spend time working on a full hour of life skills learning," Scheid said.

"We talk a lot about team building and belonging to a family, about the importance of being a friend and what a good friend looks like, and we talk about what their future looks like beyond high school."

KIDSConnect also provides summer camps to bridge the learning gap during those months kids are out of school.

"Studies have shown kids lose a month's worth of learning during the three months they're on break, so our day camp's goal is for academic retention," Scheid said.

"We also do field trips around Ohio focused on introducing the kids to STEM related jobs, showing them careers they might not normally associate with something like science."

According to Scheid, the ultimate goal is to get kids invested in their community through their learning experience.

"When they care about their community they'll make a difference," Scheid said.

"At the end of the year, seeing the students grow and being able to celebrate their hard work with them, that's why I do this."

For more information visit edcouncil.org/kc.