Marcia McFarland-Gray is a resident of Clarksburg where she is an active volunteer with the Clarksburg School, and the Clarksburg After School Program of Enrichment and Reading (CASPER). CASPER was developed to offer activities to complement what the small community school can offer. It also provides a safe, enriching experience for children in the after school hours when appropriated childcare or organized youth activities may not be available. There is no community center or youth clubs, so CASPER uses volunteer activity leaders to design and run after school sessions for kids grades Kindergarten through eighth grade. This also develops a sense of community in the town.
Marcia McFarland-Gray volunteers with the Clarksburg School, and the Clarksburg After School Program of Enrichment and Reading (CASPER), which includes activities to complement what the small community school can offer. It also provides a safe, enriching experience for children in the after school hours when appropriate child care or organized youth activities may not be available. Marcia most recently developed community service learning activities to introduce students to volunteering in their communities. In cooperation with the Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, Northern Berkshire Community Action and other groups she has involved local youth in projects serving Clarksburg and surrounding areas. Marcia also offered a HOOPS basketball program, baking classes, half-day educational trips, and a Mad Scientist program. Marcia also serves as a corporator at North Adams Regional Hospital and for the Hoosac Bank. She also is involved with many charitable organizations and projects through “Blue Crew”, a volunteer program through her employer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
Marcia’s most recent efforts with CASPER have been to develop a community service learning program in cooperation with the Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity chapter, the Northern Berkshire Community Action Program, and other local agencies and programs. Student volunteers learn about Habitat for Humanity and how it helps the community, then, they work on projects that benefit the local chapter. The students work in an intergenerational effort with senior Habitat volunteers and develop relationships that will continue to serve the community. This year’s S.T.A.R. (Service To Another Rocks!) program also saw students conduct a bottle drive to raise money to provide a full Thanksgiving dinner for a needy family in town, and to help provide Christmas dinner meals to homebound senior citizens in the area. They also conducted a fundraising drive for the President’s campaign to help children in Afghanistan. The young participants in the S.T.A.R. program are learning the value of service to others in their community, and that even the youngest volunteers can make a difference for people in their own town. The S.T.A.R. participants were recently recognized for their volunteerism with an award from the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
In prior years, Marcia designed a number of CASPER programs including the “Mrs. Gray’s Half Days” where on periodic half days at the Clarksburg School she organized fun and educational trips for up to 55 children at a time. Seeing the need for working parents to have appropriately supervised programs for young children when the school schedule varied and day care solutions were difficult, she arranged and chaperoned trips to various locations throughout the area.
She also developed Hours Of Organized Practice Sessions (HOOPS), which is a program to make basketball available as part of the after school program. Since there was no other sports sessions offered, she did this to give the children physical exercise, practice and develop core skills and for each of the participants to develop a positive attitude about their skills and development. HOOPS also reinforced the principles of sportsmanship and teamwork. HOOPS also created a great interest within the school, and McFarland-Gray coordinated a special bus trip for the children to go to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. This was a chance for many of the children who otherwise would not have an opportunity to go there. The trip also resulted in seven new parent chaperones becoming involved with CASPER.
McFarland-Gray also taught a baking class. The children learned to follow recipes, measure ingredients, bake and they get to take their creations home each week. At the end of their six- week program, each of the students compiled their own cookbook of recipes to take home to continue developing their baking skills.
Ms. McFarland-Gray developed and led a “Who Wants to be a Mad Scientist?!” program. Children learned science while exploring everyday materials in the home. Weekly, they learned about and tested a scientific principle. They then completed a project with a take home component. A 4th grade teacher uses some of the curriculum McFarland-Gray developed and some of the “Mad Scientist” students help with the demonstrations as a peer teaching components.