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Extension Cares for Every Learner Through the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2013

Extension Cares for Every Learner (ExCEL) is a partnership between Cahokia USD #187, Madison CUSD #12 and University of Illinois Extension. ExCEL is designed to meet the diverse needs of students in an out-of-school setting. ExCEL is open 3-hours per day, 4-days per week, for 28-31 weeks per year. In 2011/2012 ExCEL sites were located at Huffman and Lalumier Elementary Schools in Cahokia, and at Harris and Long Elementary Schools and Madison Junior High in Madison. The sites were funded to serve a total of 450 in grades K-8. In 2012/2013 Harris and Long merged forming one site at Long. ExCEL's primary funding source is the Illinois State Board of Education 21st Century Community Learning Center grants program; in September of 2012 ExCEL began its 4th year of a 5-year funding cycle.

Every ExCEL student is enrolled as a member of the 4-H Program and through 4-H Community Clubs and 4-H Project Clubs students learn about their growth and development, making healthy choices, leadership, character education, communication, and caring about others and the community.

Each student participates in a 4-H Project judging and staff leads students in special interest studies ranging from sewing to science. Homework help, direct instruction and tutoring are also daily program components. Recreation is an important part of the program, with multiple family events held at the local YMCA and at bowling alleys.

Nine teens from Cahokia High School and Madison High School were trained to implement 20 biotechnology related lessons to younger students at the Huffman and Madison Junior High ExCEL sites through a Teens Teaching Youth Biotechnology demonstration program funded by the National 4-H Council and the United Soybean Board Lessons topics included studying cell structures, extracting DNA and making bio-plastic. The success of the program has led to its continuation at Huffman in 2012/2013; plans are being made to also continue at Madison Junior High.

The ExCEL Program has had a positive impact on the life of the children at school. ExCEL uses an evidence-based approach. It offers engaging, worthwhile activities with a 4-H program component in a safe, structured environment. Daily academic enrichment and intentional programming are designed to help students reach their fullest potential. With the help of caring staff, ExCEL supports academic success, positive health and citizenship though diverse activities. The school district staff and administration, parents and participants have been pleased with the success of the students and the program. Keeping students actively involved in ExCEL must be a priority in the future to assure continued student success.