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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (June 29, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---When the scuba tank is rung to end the school day this August, there will be excitement in the air. Instead of going to an empty home or playing unsupervised on the streets, children of Majuro’s public elementary schools will begin their 21st Century Community Learning Center after-school programs.

The Marshall Islands has just received word that its three year, $2.7 million grant request has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education – the only one from U.S. affiliated Pacific islands to gain approval, and one of only 308 that were funded out of thousands submitted in the U.S.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) Program was established by the U.S. Congress to provide grants to high need rural and inner city public schools that have low achieving students and high rates of juvenile crime, violence and student substance abuse. The goal is to enable them to create community education centers within their school buildings. The purpose of these centers is to keep children safe in the after-school hours and provide educational, recreational, health and social service programs for students and their families. By statute, the centers are required to function as collaborative effort among community-based organizations, related public agencies, businesses and other appropriate organizations.

"This collaborative effort by government, private sector and NGOs resulted in the success of our grant proposal," said Minister of Education Wilfred Kendal.

"The problems were identified by a committee made up of these concerned community members, and Terry Sasser volunteered Mission Pacific’s services to write the grant. Out of thousands of applicants, Majuro’s program is one of only 308 successful grantees and is distinct for being the only winner outside of the United States this year.

"The Ministry of Education has spent over a million dollars to refurbish Majuro’s public school buildings. Now, this grant gives us millions to build our academies, advance computer skills, supplement dietary nutrition, provide counseling services and develop social and recreational programs that will shape our children’s character and discipline."

Kendall thanked the U.S. Department of Education for responding to urgent RMI educational needs.

After a special 21st CCLC workshop offered by Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), the Ministry of education submitted Majuro’s tailor-made program proposal. Mission Pacific, a non-government, community-based organization, produced the proposal for the Community After School Recreation and Education (C.A.R.E.) program, which last week was awarded funding. The year-one budget of $914,706 far exceeded the average award of $500,000. During the second and third years, programs will be sustained with a $897,253 yearly budget.

"The Minister and Secretary of Education are working with our committee and empowering a strong influence of non-government, community members to administer this grant," said Mission Pacific Director Sasser.

"I strongly believe that the implementation of the C.A.R.E. Program will be a great example of government and community working together to address our educational and social concerns."

The funding received for the C.A.R.E. Program provides an unprecedented opportunity to address many of Majuro’s educational and social challenges through the joint effort of the island’s people and resources, according to Kendall.

The C.A.R.E. partners desire to see children and youth of the Marshall Islands become productive members of our communities, Sasser added.

The goal is to provide after-school educational and recreational programming for school-aged children and their families to decrease the instances of juvenile delinquency and substance abuse, and increase counseling services and parental involvement, making educational and social success more attainable.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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