Westerville school district families with English learners are being assisted in an after-school program, thanks to a recent grant.

Westerville Education Foundation executive director Colleen Moidu said this school year, for the first time, a grant has been designated to fund after-school programs for English learners and it is supported by Alliance Data.

"We have already funded several programs from this fund," Moidu said.

The foundation recently announced funding for 16 traditional grants totaling $19,623.

Moidu said targeted funding from Alliance Data also is providing $3,730 for three additional English Learner Program Grants.

She said these grants are being provided separately from the foundation's traditional grants program.

"The Westerville City School District currently has 1,460 students who are English learners," Moidu said. "This is nearly one in 10 students."

She said these students represent 63 countries and 58 languages.

"At home, many of these students do not have the technology or parent support (due to language) to complete their homework and acquire the English language skills necessary to succeed in school," Moidu said. "The goal of WEF-Alliance Data After School English Learning Grant is to fund programs outside of school hours that support the learning and language acquisition of English Learners in Westerville City Schools, including but not limited to after-school homework and tutoring clubs, weekend support and summer camps."

She said all grades and abilities are invited to participate in the program based on teacher recommendations.

Mark Twain Elementary School fifth-grader Lutfun-Nisaa Suleiman, 10, is taking part in the program.

"It's giving me better progress with learning," she said. "It's easier to come to a teacher to ask a question on the same day (after school)."

Westerville Central High School junior Jimmy Glaser has been volunteering twice a week during the last two months at Mark Twain.

"They have an online program that helps them with math," he said. "I help them with simple problems like fractions. They are nice and fun to help."

Glaser said his mother, Kim Glaser, a Mark Twain fourth-grade teacher who coordinates the program, recommended he volunteer.

"The kids enjoy having me around," he said. "It helps them. For a lot of them, English isn't their first language."

He said some of the students teach him words from their language.

Lilly Carson, a Mark Twain fourth-grader, said she volunteers because she likes being helpful.

"What I do is help children learn, if they're stuck on a question," she said.

Kim Glaser said this marks the third year for the program at Mark Twain, but the first year the Westerville Education Foundation has provided the funds awarded through the foundation's grant cycle.

"This year's program is in its fifth week with about 55 students working with 15 teacher volunteers," she said. "The program runs every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. with the purpose of extending the learning day so that students have extra time to work on their academic goals. Most of our after-school students are English Language learners who are working to close the achievement gap."

Glaser said this grant cycle announced awards in November and Mark Twain's program received additional funding to support a reading program for after-school students.

"The goal of the reading program is to help students discover their genuine interests through books," she said. "The Westerville Public Library, a volunteer already in our after-school program, will be assisting with the reading program."

Moidu said the education foundation receives grant requests from individual English as a second language teachers to support their innovative efforts to support students through after school, weekend and summer programs.

"One request for funding we recently received was for a weekly after-school homework club at Fouse Elementary for one year for $2,375," she said. "This investment supports 25 students throughout the year (less than $100 per student)" she said.

"With generous support from Alliance Data, the Westerville Education Foundation created a grant fund to support more of these programs throughout the district, run by passionate, dedicated and innovative educators."

Not only will these programs have an effect on the students involved, they will provide the district an opportunity to evaluate the operations and results of various programs with a goal to create effective districtwide programming, Moidu said.

In addition to Mark Twain, funded after-school English Learning Programs are operating at Annehurst, Fouse, Central and Wilder.