By Mike Pettinella
Acknowledging that she is at the starting line, longtime Batavia City Schools administrator Julia Rogers says she has great expectations for the district’s new Batavia Community School program.
“I think the biggest thing is that we want to get our outreach in many different areas,” said Rogers, a Batavia native. “Batavia Community Schools wants to be everywhere and anywhere so that people know that we’re here to support the community – even during the summer when we’re based at Robert Morris (building on Union Street).
Rogers was speaking during an interagency informational event in conjunction with Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse last week at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road.
She said the goal of Batavia Community Schools is to inspire student success in many different ways, exploring opportunities and activities beyond the classroom.
“We find that in order to encourage success in the classroom, you also have to support the families. And by supporting the families, we’re looking at all aspects – from integrated student supports, mental health, dental, medical, healthy lifestyles and also jobs,” she said.
The program’s framework is adaptable to communities of all sizes, she said, mentioning that Wayne County has launched one for its school district.
“For Batavia, it really works with our demographics,” she said. “We have all different needs in our community. We’re going to be working with elders and working with the young. Really, this goes beyond the academics of school.”
Rogers said that as someone who grew up in Batavia, she understands the community and most of its needs, but admitted “that I’m learning through this position that there are needs that I wasn’t aware of.”
“The initiative is going to continue to grow as we have evening and weekend programming lined up. We’re building this and we’re open to ideas from residents to help us move forward,” she said.
Several agencies participated in the event, including Richmond Memorial Library, Hillside Children’s Center, ACT, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Young Life and, of course, UConnectCare.
Sherri Bensley, assistant director of Prevention at UConnectCare, said she set up a “Hidden Mischief” test for parents – a mock teen bedroom that was “planted” with numerous illegal drugs (facsimiles), drug paraphernalia and drug references.
The object was to see how many of these things parents could find in the three to five minutes they were given to search the bedroom.
“Once they do that, we do a presentation and show them different things that kids have hidden, such as a stash can or drug references that parents don’t know about,” Bensley said. “It has been a program that we have taken throughout Genesee and Orleans counties — to schools, open houses and those type of things. It’s really a popular program right now that is providing valuable education to parents about the drug culture.”