SHIRLEY -- Lura A. White Elementary School Principal Patricia Fitzgerald recently told the Ayer-Shirley Regional School Committee that, thanks to the school community and local businesses, the school has nearly a dozen after-school programs.

"At Lura A. White, just today," she said, "we received a donation from ExxonMobil's Educational Alliance Program, which is a national initiative to enhance math and science learning at K-12 institutions.

"This year alone," she said, "more than 200 schools throughout the northeast will receive educational grants for materials and programming such as learning tools, lab supplies and educational trips."

Fitzgerald said she had just received a $500 check from Nancy Jaillet, manager of Mr. Mike's ExxonMobil station off of the Ayer rotary.

"Nancy applied for this grant on behalf of our school and, because of her effort, we received this generous award two years in a row. I can't thank her enough for thinking of us," Fitzgerald said.

She also thanked another benefactor, Bemis Corporation, for their generous donation to after-school programs district-wide.

"At Lura White just this year, they have provided funding for numerous after-school clubs," she said.

Those include a Stratomatic Baseball Game Club led by English teacher Tim Churchill, camera and video clubs directed by retired LAW teacher Meredith Marcinkewicz, and a crochet club with kindergarten paraprofessional Elise White.


Marcinkewicz also leads a Strategy Games Club and the LAW Student Council, while music teacher Marla Farrow offers a program on folk and fairy tales.

Art teacher Kelly Fitzsimmons runs a mural club, and Tim Anderson and Matthew Noll mentor Lego robotics.

"All of these clubs are made possible by Bemis' generosity," Fitzgerald said. "There are no words to express our gratitude adequately. The benefits that the children receive from these experiences are priceless and may indeed be life-altering."

Other after-school programs at the school include subsidized instrument lessons through a generous grant obtained by Indian Hill Music.

"We are currently offering after-school music lessons on the trumpet, flute, clarinet and saxophone!" Fitzgerald proudly exclaimed.

Her comments were followed by presentations by three student council members and members of the fourth- and fifth-grade Lego robotics teams.

The two robotics teams were among dozen that congregated at the FIRST Lego Robotics Tournament at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.

The challenge, "Nature's Fury," involved having students come up with their own ideas to prepare for, stay safe during, and rebuild after natural disasters such as storms, earthquakes and tsunamis. Specific tasks included delivering supplies, clearing debris from airplane runways and positioning evacuation signs.

Fourth-grader Lydia Flagg said she learned from the event that her team should have spent extra time doing teamwork. Instead of building just one tower of cards during one of the challenges, her team built three separate ones, she said.

Teammate Brady Heinz said he learned how he could improve his scores. "I did a little practice with one of my friends, and then after that practice I had a turn coming up, and I came from a 43 and an 18 to 117 points just by practicing," he said.

Other Lego Robotics presenters were fourth-grader Riley Wilson and fifth-graders Ryan and Sean Farrar.

LAW Student Council member representatives Rosalind Lupaczyk, Lilly Robinson and Ryan Farrar informed the School Committee that the council plans to achieve its goals by using the S.M.A.R.T. goal achievement method they learned from their new part-time health teacher. Their goals, they said, must be specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely.

With the aid of colorful hand-drawn posters, they articulated some of those goals, which include providing more playground equipment, after-school activities and lunch variety.

They plan to attain their goals, said Robinson, by holding events such as raffles, bake sales and movie nights, and by setting up donor jars at each. 

At the end of the "student showcase," School Committee Chairman Pat Kelly thanked the students, mentors and donors. "It really does take a village to raise a child," he said.