Carol Stark loves kids.
Ask anyone in the Ephrata Area School District about the “crazy lady” from Akron, as the kids lovingly call her, and they’ll tell you the same thing.
During her many years as a volunteer in Ephrata schools, Stark met too many students whose lives were a far cry from the idyllic “Leave It To Beaver.”
Stark developed a special affection for kids on the cusp – drop-outs and potential drop-outs, and those booted from their homes by their families and left to live wherever they could find shelter, including in the storm sewers under Ephrata Borough.
Kids our society leaves behind.
It costs nearly $250 for a student to fulfill a full summer session. The goal of 4OurKids is to prevent high school kids from dropping out by footing the bill for their summer school tuition.
Since 1998, 4OurKids has sent between 40 and 50 students to summer school annually. “If they had not been in our program, they wouldn’t have gotten their diplomas,” Stark said. “And without a diploma, you can’t get a good job. You can’t go to college.”
If a student wishes to seek financial assistance and is not going through the court system, they must complete an application to their school and meet with the selection committee for an interview. All students awarded a scholarship must then complete a local community service project.
The success of 4OurKids has caught the attention of others. The program has grown and now helps students in Ephrata, Garden Spot and Cocalico schools districts. The Youth Aid Panel and the Lancaster County Court System refers some non-violent youth to do their court-appointed community service with 4OurKids.
Stark says the need is great and the rewards are many.
“Our kids are financially being left behind, so somebody has to help them,” she said. “I think it’s a shame that for small amount of money, they can’t get the education they need to at least get their high school diploma. No kid should be left behind just because they can’t afford the cost.”