Cal U Collaborates on School Program

Jan 04, 2021

Monessen Positive Action is funded by a two-year, $153,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency

mathilda spencer

Dr. Mathilda Spencer

California University of Pennsylvania is partnering with local organizations on an after-school program to improve student behavior and academic motivation. 

Monessen Positive Action (MPACT) is a collaboration between the Monessen School District, Cal U, Monessen Communities That Care and the Monessen Public Library. 

It is funded by a two-year, $153,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency obtained by Dr. Mathilda Spencer, associate professor of criminal justice at Cal U. 

MPACT will be offered to Monessen middle school students who sign up for the after-school program. Cal U student facilitators will provide the instruction, using curriculum from the national Positive Action organization. 

The program emphasizes how positive thoughts lead to positive actions, and it provides tools that children can use to be successful. Positive outcomes include improvements in math and reading skills, and a significant reduction in instances of violence, bullying, suspensions and disciplinary referrals. 

Spencer and five Cal U students participated in Positive Action virtual training last fall. The goal is to start MPACT instruction for  students this spring. 

“The program facilitators are paid positions for our students, who are majoring in psychology, social work, political science and sociology. Three of them are using it as their internship experience,” Spencer said. 

MPACT lessons will be delivered online or in person, depending on what safety precautions the district may take in response to the COVID-19 pandemic this spring. 

It’s good exposure to the real world, Spencer said, as the Cal U facilitators plan how to make each unit of instruction relevant to the middle-schoolers. 

“Our students are getting experience that you cannot get in a classroom. How are they going to customize the content so their student can relate and respond to it? We are working with the classroom teachers to learn some of the issues that the kids are going through, so we can ‘learn the language.’” 

MPACT is also a way for Cal U students to help in their community. 

“This has the potential to change these kids’ lives and our students’ lives as well,” Spencer said. “As program facilitators, they will get to know that feeling of success that you get by working with kids and giving back in a way that is so positive.”

“It’s a wonderful partnership,” Spencer said of the collaboration that includes program coordinator Darla Holmes, a retired Cal U employee; Eric Manko, principal of Monessen Middle School; Teresa Seh, project director/mobilizer for Communities That Care; and Marsha Adams, children’s coordinator at Monessen Public Library. Karen Primm, from the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research at Cal U, also assisted with the program.