Learned Wednesday 2019

Corene McDaniel, center, opens the final day of the Learned Wednesday Summer Enrichment Program on Friday by asking which of the kids had watched the news the night before.

CARBONDALE — For 14 years, The African American Museum of Southern Illinois has been giving kids the opportunity to keep learning during the summer.

On Friday, they celebrated the accomplishments of this year’s class.

Corene McDaniel is a founding member of the museum and is a chief organizer of the Learned Wednesday Summer Enrichment Program. Though it started as being offered only on Wednesdays, McDaniel said it has since expanded to Monday through Friday for about six weeks during the summer.

She said the organizers try to offer their students experiences they might not normally get to have — everything from going to see a play at McLeod Theater or learning about money management from the folks at the SIU Credit Union.

“It’s a learning tool, it’s a teaching tool,” she said, adding that she believes the program to be more beneficial than sitting in front of a TV all summer.

Some lessons and experiences registered right away with the kids, who range in age from fourth to sixth grade, things like a fishing trip to Giant City or a visit to a museum in Centralia. But McDaniel said she designed the program to plant seeds, keeping in mind something her mom used to tell her.

“You may not understand it now, but you will later.”

This was especially true of some of the lessons on money offered this year. She said a representative from the SIU Credit Union came to help the kids begin to think about money in a healthy, measured way. This started with identifying need versus want.

“I need food but I want a brand new car,” she said.

The lessons also included something McDaniel said everyone should do if they can: Pay yourself.

“(It is) just helping them to understand how to save some money,” she said.

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McDaniel said she has some alumni come and share their experiences in the program and their perspectives as adults. While there are donations of time like these, McDaniel said some, who may not have even gone through Learned Wednesday, choose to contribute anonymously.

“I’m just so thankful,” she said of these donations.

Aayushi Joshi, an 11-year-old who spent her second year with the program, said this is what she likes about Learned Wednesday, she said it teaches “basic life skills” and “how to take care of yourself.”

Joshi said she enjoyed the five weeks she spent this year — one week shorter than normal — but is also looking forward to sleeping in. The program takes on typical school hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

During the celebration Friday at the program’s University Mall classroom, children shared their projects and their favorite highlights from this year’s program.

From their visit to McLeod where they took in the play “Polkadots,” the kids sang a song and performed a dance from the show. Joshi also extolled the lessons learned about fiscal management.

The theme of this year’s Learned Wednesday was Santa’s House because they kids worked to repaint panels that make up the house used during Santa in the Park every December.

This was near the top of the list for 11-year-old Alexander Rittenhouse and 8-year-old Christian Alexander.

“I hope I can come for more years to come,” Rittenhouse said

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