MERCED — School typically lets out about 3 p.m. each day. For some students, however, learning continues for several more hours.
About 3,600 Merced County students in kindergarten through eighth grade take part in the ASSETS program. That stands for After School Student Education: Teamwork for Success. It operates in 11 school districts and 39 schools in the county.
"I strongly agree that the ASSETS program today is developing tomorrow's leaders," said Faye Merritt, the grandmother of a student at Franklin School.
The ASSETS program is all about working as a team to support students so they can achieve success, whether that is socially or academically, said May Moua, ASSETS program specialist with the Merced County Office of Education.
A typical daily schedule includes sign-in, snacks, physical activity, homework assistance, academics and enrichment or project-based learning.
Paula Heupel, Chenoweth Elementary School principal, calls ASSETS a wonderful resource for students and their families.
"It's an opportunity to extend the learning day as well," Heupel said. "It provides a safe and enriching place for a great number of students."
ASSETS runs at 15 of the 17 Merced City School District campuses. It also is offered at Ballico-Cressey, Delhi, Dos Palos-Oro Loma, Gustine, Hilmar, Livingston, Plainsburg, Planada, Snelling-Merced Falls and Weaver school districts.
The program receives high praise from Catherine Puckett, principal at Joe Stefani School.
"This year's ASSETS program has been stellar," Puckett said. "I have nothing but great comments from parents. The activities, homework help, physical exercise and clubs -- all wonderful additions to the program."
Moua said ASSETS provides opportunities for creative and artistic exploration that help children develop talents in visual arts, theater arts, dance and music. Academic skill development supports learning in English, language arts and math.
Students are taken on field trips to college and university campuses for guided tours and to learn about college life.
"It promotes a culture of college-going and career explorations throughout the year," Moua said. "The field trips enrich children's understanding of their community."
Josiah Sangha, an ASSETS participant at Livingston's Campus Park School, phrases it in basic terms:
"I really like the times we play soccer and basketball and all the new friends I have made while being in the program," Josiah said. "I really like all the help I get, the yummy snacks and the cool activities they give us."
Moua said it is always a pleasure to see the students' excitement when they finish a project and get to present their learning in front of an audience.
Annie Dossetti, the city school district's assistant superintendent for educational services, said ASSETS is a safe and educationally enriching alternative for more than 1,200 children during non-school hours. It runs 15 hours a week, until 6 p.m. at each site.
Dossetti said educational enrichment activities include visual and performing arts, health and nutrition promotion, career awareness, and community service.
Tutoring or homework helps zero in on reading-language arts, mathematics, history, science and social science. "It is a fantastic option for parents seeking after-school care for their children," Dossetti said.
Moua said the collaborative program began in August 2006, funded by a state grant after passage of Proposition 49. ASSETS is the fifth-largest after-school program run by a county office of education in the state.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.