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Clymer Central School Tuesday became part of a collaborative program that helps at-risk students with their personal, academic and family lives.

Partners for Children is a three-year-old program developed by the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County and Family Services of Jamestown.

Principal Camille Manning of Clymer said Superintendent Karen Raccuia was a driving force in the district taking part.

"We are a small rural district, and often times we do not see a lot of agency assistance in a rural area," said Manning. "So this was something that we looked on as a great benefit for our children, and our district, and our families."

United Way Executive Director Michael Moots pointed out that the program has three objectives:

"The purpose of this is to help kids succeed in school. Academically, we hope their grades come up. We hope they get involved in fewer behavioral problems in the schools, and we also track that their families are doing better at home, and if we can accomplish those three things then we've succeeded."

One of the people involved in the program, Family Services therapist Myriam Mayshark stressed the need for continuing the effort. Mayshark said it has shown her that city and rural district students have similar problems.

"A school counselor who has a huge caseload cannot address all of them," she said. "But there are some wonderful kids that are falling through the cracks, I think those are the ones we can catch. We've been able to link them to other facilities to be evaluated and have been able to link them to things like Project YES for young people to do some volunteer work, to COMPEER for Children -- just numerous agencies and different services. But we've also been able to address their problems in a therapeutic way. They don't have to get in their car, we go to them, we make a phone call and make that possible for them."

Jamestown High School Counselor Patty Duncanson agreed that caseloads can be high, and the program is getting to children early enough to help.

Family Services Chief Executive Officer Charles Weis explained the importance of having the families involved.

"Sure, on occasion the family may be part of the problem, but they're always part of the solution," he said, "and one of the outcomes we've had here is the families also get more involved in the schools because of this program. We think that's very important. They're knowing what's going on with their child a lot more perhaps than they had before, and they've been a little isolated, so getting the family involved is crucial."

Funding for the program is provided by the United Way, and a portion of the Family Services allocation from the United Way. The member schools kick in a portion in their second year of involvement, and then match the funds the third year.

Clymer succeed Panama, which opted out of the program for financial reasons. Officials hope to expand the program and to have Panama rejoin.

Manning said Clymer will have a therapist and social worker in the secondary grade levels.

Clymer joins Jamestown, Southwestern, Falconer, Chautauqua Lake, and Fredonia school districts in the program.

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