(04/08/2001)
"The $2.1 million '21st Century Lights On' grant has the potential to make dramatic changes in Calhoun and I don't want to fritter it away," said Dr. Tony Russell, newly appointed Project Director. Russell, who was in charge of outreach services at Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center, will start his new job on April 26.

The project will fill some gaps for kids who are not doing well and afford new opportunities for others, including families.

"We hope to bring the whole community along. It is not just about schools, it is about strengthening this community," he said. Some of the evening, weekend and summer programs will be directed toward adults.

Committee excited about "Lights On"

Dr. Russell has a Ph. D. from the University of Pennsylvania, having obtained degrees from Marshall University and the University of Washington. He was the former director of the Upward Bound program at Wittenberg University and worked for the West Virginia Department of Education. He was a Peace Corp volunteer and has taught in elementary, high school and college settings.

Russell said this is the single highest grant award in West Virginia. The grant was initiated by George Ward, Director of Curriculum for Calhoun schools, with assistance from a committee of local individuals. "We are going to have a big celebration to start the 'Lights On' Project," said Ward. The grant covers a three year period.

"Lights On" has high aspirations to increase academic performance, reducing the number of dropouts, decrease violence and help kids with alcohol and drug problems.

Much of the project is to help kids and parents become more computer literate, affording additional training and access. "Lights On" has economic, cultural, educational, health and recreational goals.

Dr. Tony Russell (center) will be project director, Gail Carter (left) and Sherri Graham (right)

About twenty educators and community members met last Monday to create a launch committee with Peig Schmitz and Larry Stinn volunteering to be co- chairs. The meeting reviewed the project goals and discussed the starting of programs for the summer. "Lights On" will "strengthen existing programs" and not replace them, according to Russell.

Representatives discussed services and programs currently being provided to kids and families in the community.

Those in attendance: Mike Walker, DHHR; Henry Cooper, Calhoun Library; Holly CreelFox, Minnora Community Center; Susan Graham, Heartwood in the Hills; Jane Lynch, Principal Calhoun Middle School; Tony Richards, parent; Gail Carter, representing Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito; Sheri Graham, principal of Arnoldsburg School; Larry Stinn, principal of Pleasant Hill; Linda Ward, Calhoun Schools; George Ward, Calhoun Schools; Connie Roberts, Calhoun Schools; P. J. Moore, CRI/Little Kanawha Bus Company; Deb Ball, WVU Extension; Rev. P. Schmitz, FRN; Jim Morford, DHHR; Bob Weaver, Pres. of Calhoun Commission; Dr. Bob Rentschler, Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center.

A summer planning meeting will be held on Tuesday April 24 at 9 a.m. with the full advisory group meeting on May 3 at 9 a.m.


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