Community learning center coming to Tupper Lake

TUPPER LAKE – A new 21st Century Community Learning Center is coming to Tupper Lake.

Last spring, the Tupper Lake school district’s grant writer and accountability coordinator Carol Lamb sought a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to fund a community center.

Even though the district was awarded the grant, the March 1 government sequestration prevented the district from receiving the money.

Lamb wasn’t satisfied with that, so she continued working on securing the funds with the help of Cornell Cooperative Extension, the grant’s lead.

During Monday’s school board meeting, Lamb and Sarah Pratt, program director of the 21st Century Community Learning Center, announced that the district will receive $76,584 annually for the next five years to fund the community center. Tupper Lake was the only school district north of Albany to get the grant.

“The main idea of the 21st Century Learning Community Learning Center Grant is that everything is done outside of school – Saturdays, summer, hours that school isn’t normally functioning – to bring the community into the schools during those times,” Lamb said.

The home base for the community center will be an unused Tupper Lake Middle School classroom, but activities won’t be confined to that space. Some will take place outside, while others will occur in locations like the Adirondack Public Observatory or the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library.

The programs will cover a wide range of interests, from educational to recreational. Even though Pratt was hired only two weeks ago, she said a homework support club to help students who are struggling with classes, including Common Core modules, is already in the works.

Looking ahead, the community center will work on improving existing programs by offering transportation, coordinating with various entities within the community and providing supplies, materials and instructors.

Lamb said a little organization will also help more people get involved.

“For years, the cross-country dates and archery dates have overlapped,” Lamb said. “Why don’t we stagger them so people can do both?”

The community center won’t just strive to improve existing programs.

“We’re linking together what’s here, what’s been here and what we lost, and we’re bringing some of it back,” Lamb said. “For example, not too long ago, we lost our dance instructor here in Tupper Lake, so we are hoping to find a dance instructor to provide dance classes again.”

Lamb added that the center is forming a partnership to increase 4-H’s presence in Tupper Lake. If things go as planned, participating students might have the opportunity to spend the night at Camp Overlook in Mountain View.

There might be a small charge for some of the community center’s programs, but most would be free.

Pratt said a lot of the programs there will be focused on youth, but they won’t all be.

“It’s not going to be a teen center, where you can hang out, listen to music and play video games,” Pratt said. “That’s a component of it, but it’s not the only thing we want to be. We want to be a true community center.”

Pratt said parents are encouraged to teach classes at the community center, and they’re encouraged to take classes, too.

Future programs might include a family nutrition night, where families get together and make a healthy meal and learn about nutrition. There could also be things like substance abuse prevention or computer literacy programs.

The community center will also support art and music in the school district, and the first project for that is already underway. Pratt explained that the community center has been helping the high school chorus group with a bake sale in anticipation of receiving the grant.

“It’s the first big initiative to get the kids involved,” Pratt said. “Kids and parents will be baking with us, and then they’ll sell those things to raise money. Our idea is to keep the children and leaders involved.”

The current bake sale is the first of three that will raise money to bring SUNY Potsdam’s Counter Points acapella group to Tupper Lake to work with the chorus students for a day.

Pratt said she would like to have the community center fully operational by Jan. 1. For now the center will use the town of Tupper Lake’s website and the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce website, but eventually it will have its own website and events calendar.

Now that funding has been secured, the community center is seeking an advisory board.

“What we’re looking for is people who are interested in all sorts of different avenues, to support us and the kids in different programing,” Pratt said.

Pratt has a lot of work ahead of her if she’s going to meet her deadline, but for now, she is just happy the community center is becoming a reality.

“A lot of times it seems like there is a lot of negative going on around here, and we tend to focus on that,” Pratt said. “It’s important to focus on our community and what’s going on positively, because it is a great little community, and this community center will help bring it all together.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or