LEAP overcomes staffing challenges to serve Western’s ESL community 

WCU’s Language Enhancement Afterschool Program (LEAP) will serve English as a second language (ESL) students again on Oct. 24 despite staffing issues. 

 LEAP is a grant-funded after-school program for children who are learning or have learned English as a second language. The program is partnered with Cullowhee Valley School (K-8) and is located at the Cullowhee United Methodist Church on campus where WCU students can work or volunteer. 

 “Normally we are scheduled to open after Labor Day and that would have been Sept. 7, but we’re having some staffing issues and we’re not alone in that,” said Dr. Eleanor Petrone, instructor at LEAP and associate English professor. 

 LEAP does not have a director. The previous director, Juan Diaz Juarez, went on medical leave in May.  

 Petrone took on the role as LEAP director with help from the director of student success, Jenny Stewart, but Petrone is not in the position to have two jobs.  

 “I don’t want to open our doors to kids until we have a director in place. Otherwise, I will end up directing it,” said Petrone 

 Petrone made a hiring proposal for a new director on Sept. 27.  

 The staffing issue is not affecting LEAP’s funding.  

 The Duke Endowment, the organization providing grants for LEAP, understands the staffing issue. Petrone describes how The Duke Endowment are facing a staffing issue as well.  

 “They’re in the same situation. You call people up and it’s, ‘They’re not here anymore. They’re not here anymore’,” said Petrone.  

 The Duke Endowment grant is for $143,000 for three years and LEAP is in the final year of funding. LEAP would need to reapply for a grant after this year. 

 Volunteers are needed and Petrone is getting requests from WCU students.  

 The Cullowhee Valley kids at LEAP like it when they get to see different college students said Petrone. Petrone describes boys liking to see male college students volunteer because they are not represented in the education field as much.  

 “These kids are trying to make sense of who they are going to be when they’re adults. Children of color, immigrants, and boys. Who will they see?” said Petrone. 

 A former teacher at LEAP and WCU student, Helen Chisolm, describes the positive impact that the kids at LEAP had on her. 

 “The kids have left a big impact on my future career as an elementary school teacher. I have now been exposed to many different types of learners and can’t wait to see how I adapt to new learning styles I come across,” said Chislom. 

 A day a LEAP starts with the kids coming from Cullowhee Valley School at 3 p.m. The kids eat a snack and play in the playground until 3:30.  

 Homework time is when the Cullowhee Valley kids can get one on one support from teachers and volunteers. Younger kids also have literacy time.  

 “Scholar stations” are when teachers give interactive lesson plans based on a theme for the week. An example Petrone gave was a theme being geometry. The lesson may be for the kids to build a structure with certain shapes.  

 Next is “liberty station” or structured fun where the kids are lead in an activity that applies to the theme of the week. 

 The program ends at 5:30 and the parents and guardians pick up their children until 6 p.m. 

 LEAP also offers ESL classes to adults and parents of kids at LEAP. The program is operating two times a week for two hours. 

 For those interested in volunteering at LEAP contact Dr. Eleanor Petrone by email: eapetrone@email.wcu.edu or stop by Cullowhee United Methodist church after it opens on Oct. 24.