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Unique summer program yields results

But beyond the numbers, Landry said he's seen a marked improvement in how these students approach school in general.

"I have a student who is actually now attending college writing workshops who, last year, we weren't even sure she was going to graduate much less move on," he said.

Verizon Wireless cut Landry a deal on the equipment needed to connect 10 laptops wirelessly to the Internet and Dick's Sporting Goods helped students buy uniforms. It was largely through such corporate and independent sponsorship that the program was possible in the first place"Landry estimated the cost of the summertime program at $35,000, which included meals, transportation, uniforms and other expenses.

"I think in terms of the cost and the impact that it has, that's not a whole lot of money," Landry said.

Not only did the Guilderland YMCA provide the location, but instructor Shannon Pinkowski helped out with the physical component. YMCA District Executive Director Karen Hennet said that holding SOAR at Camp Nassau was also a big help.

"It was a great spot, because it was an outdoor summer setting, not a classroom setting," she sad. "The goal of the program was to, yes, to improve academically in the long run, but also to mainly build the self esteem for the students."

Hennet said that she'd like to lend the use of the park next year, and hopes other schools might take interest.

"My hope is that the Guilderland district would find value in the program now that the pilot has completed," she said.

The BC School District also pitched in by securing a federal grant, as did other area groups with grants of their own. But with fiscal concerns prevailing in the private sector and reaching crisis levels in the public sphere, Landry acknowledged that his goal of keeping the program rolling in the summer of 2010 would require continued generosity. But given what the program has achieved so far, Landry is hopeful that sponsors will continue to recognize its value.

"We want to keep it moving forward, small at first and then from there," Landry said.

Landry will present the program at the BOCES Northeast Regional Information Center Awareness Day on Friday, Dec. 11, and highlight how students worked with NovaNet. Administrators from area high school districts will gather for the conference.

Administrators at The College of Saint Rose are also interested in how SOAR can provide internship opportunities for their education students. Landry will be meeting with college officials in the near future.

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