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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

STAIRS running out of funding

Monday, February 4, 2002

Tonya Bonner, a tutor for STAIRS, helps Brianna Applewhite and Taevon Dennise with math problems.
SIKESTON - Holding a candy bar, bag of chips and a sucker in his arms, 10-year-old Alex Clark, hands a one-dollar bill to Louis T. Wiggins, director of the STAIRS Developmental Learning Center, and said, "Here."

"Well, what's this for?" Wiggins asked.

"My candy," Clark said.

"Count it up," Wiggins said. "How much do you owe me?"

After counting each item, Clark said, "Ninety cents."

"How much change do you get back then?" Wiggins asked.

"Ten cents," Clark replied.

"That's right. Good Job," Wiggins said with a nod.

Wiggins was demonstrating one of his personal lessons that he implements into the many different lessons the STAIRS peer-tutoring program offers. The center has a concession stand where children can purchase snacks instead of having to go somewhere else.

"That's just something I do so the kids learn how much money they are spending and getting back," Wiggins said. "A lot of the kids don't know to do that so it's a way to use math and teach the kids at the same time."

STAIRS, or Students Taking Academic Initiative for Reading Success, was developed in 1989 to provide extended educational experiences for selected students and their families.

The program includes family outreach and parenting, intensive tutoring, teacher training, self-esteem and leadership building experiences for the youth. The program implements Selected Educational Learning Focus as determined by working with schools, students and parents.

Wiggins said the program is such a good one, but its running out of funding, which can be credited to different sources throughout the years. In 1991, the University of Missouri-Columbia's Agricultural Department began funding STAIRS, but that came to an after a few years, he said.

Wiggins said he has used money from his own pocket to help support the program. However, through donations, and support from the Sikeston Public Schools, Sikeston Public Housing, the Weed and Seed Initiative and most currently, the Scott County Bootheel Heart Health Coalition, STAIRS has managed to remain active.

Although fund suppliers have changed through the years, the program itself remains the same. "We train kids on how to make good grades in school," Wiggins said. "We don't give them the grades, we train them. We also teach them respect for fellow individuals."

Students who attend STAIRS must bring their schoolwork with them. STAIRS officials encourage the students to bring textbooks on subjects that are their most difficult or weak areas.

Wiggins said things are pretty structured at STAIRS due to a set schedule. Snacks and concession time is from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Homework and learning exercises are from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and learning games and computer lessons are from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. STAIRS is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Currently, 36 students attend the STAIRS program, Wiggins said. In past years, as many as 90 students were tutored, but that was when the program was in a bigger, more central location.

Tonya Bonner, STAIRS tutor, said the students are always busy learning something. "We go over their homework, if they have any, and help them out," she said. "If they don't have any homework, then we give them work on their grade level."

STAIRS allows students from ages 5 to 15 to participate in the program, Bonner said. Aside from the concession stand, nutritional snacks are provided for the students on the three days they are at the center, she said.

The last 30 minutes of class, is fun-learning time, Bonner said. "Right now my kindergarten through third grade students are learning to say all 50 states in alphabetical order," she said. "They're learning, but also having fun at the same time."

Bonner said some of the children will perform at a Black History month celebration on Feb. 5 at the Mission Missouri from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. She encourages the public to attend.

STAIRS' assistance is available in math, science, English, social studies, history and computer lessons. Hooked on Phonics and other textbooks are available, too, Bonner said.

Wiggins said STAIRS appreciates and needs more tutors for the program. Those interested in helping STAIRS should call (573) 481-0796, or stop by for an application. STAIRS is located at 129 Pin Oak Dr.