Carpe Diem Academy in the spotlight

Claire Eichner, Staff writer

In 2010, Mercyhurst University introduced a groundbreaking program that helped countless schools in the Erie area dealing with high poverty rates and low test scores. Known as the Carpe Diem Academy, this program was initiated by the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

The Carpe Diem Academy provides more than 250 students ranging from kindergarten to second grade with the opportunity to attend a stand-out after-school program during the year. It is provided in many districts for the Erie area, and the students attend the program at their own schools.

The Academy is a finalist for a national award — the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. It is one of 50 finalists nationwide.

The Carpe Diem Academy runs after regular school hours Mondays through Thursdays, from September to June. Each day the students experience a positive, safe, interactive and outstanding after-school education with programs that encourage creativity and help students who may be at a lower level than their classmates.

Leanne Roberts, Ph.D., dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, is just one of the many people who played a key role in getting the program to where it is today.

“Our view is that it’s crucial to teach kids in the early grades,” Roberts said in a university news release. “If they aren’t reading well by the time they reach third grade, they’re definitely going to struggle moving forward.”

One of the program’s main goals is to increase students performance in the main topics that the majority of public school curriculums focus on today.

“We provide enrichment in literacy and math, as well as the arts and sciences,” said Roberts.

Along with the educational aspect of the program, it also gives the students a chance to get involved in physical activity and provides them with healthy and nourishing snacks.

The elementary school students are not the only ones receiving an invaluable experience: Many of the students studying education at Mercyhurst have the opportunity to assist in this program and teach these students on a daily basis.

“Our education majors are learning and living the Mercyhurst mission as they serve the students of Erie’s Public Schools through their work at the Carpe Diem Academy,” said Roberts.

Experiences offered by the Academy over the years include violin lessons, weekly dance lessons through spotlight dance, weekly art classes and much more.

Funding for the Academy comes mostly from 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, which are managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The Academy has also received funding from philanthropic organizations around the Erie area as well.

The leading-edge academy has made a positive impact on Erie’s youth as it aims to help children seize the day.