Community

PECE program bridges gap between teachers, parents

Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Gjersvold, of the USS Maine gold crew, reads to third- and fourth-graders at Emerald Heights Elementary School as part of the Personal Excellence through Cooperative Education (PECE) program. - Charles Melton/file photo
Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Gjersvold, of the USS Maine gold crew, reads to third- and fourth-graders at Emerald Heights Elementary School as part of the Personal Excellence through Cooperative Education (PECE) program.
— image credit: Charles Melton/file photo

Local military recently helped to breathe new life into Emerald Heights Elementary School’s Personal Excellence through Cooperative Education (PECE) program.

It was brought back to “actively pursue partnerships between military commands and local schools in order to strengthen education and fitness for students in our community,” said Lori D’Arienzo, learning specialist at the school. “This program is firmly supported by Capt. Mark Olson, commanding officer Naval Base Kitsap (NBK).”

The PECE program was started in the area about 10 years ago, according to Nancy Loeffelholz, Emerald Heights PECE Coordinator and Navy wife.

“Greg Lynch, who is our superintendent, is retired military also,” Loeffelholz said. “So this is a program that is kind of near and dear to him because he did have children when he was active duty and he knows what it is like when you are moving your child here or there or when you get them settled and then you are deployed.”

The PECE program not only helps children academically, but it provides them emotional help as well, according to Loeffelholz.

“This school has a high number of military families,” she said. “And what we have been finding is that when you have a student whose dad just disappeared and is going to be gone for 10 or 12 weeks and they see someone in uniform, they have this instant connection.”

Because of budget cuts for schools across the nation, Loeffelholz and D’Arienzo said they need programs like this one even more.

“Now more than ever this program is important because we can utilize these military members in helping us do a lot of one-on-one tutoring,” Loeffelholz said.

“The PECE volunteers bridge the gap between our teachers and parents,” D’Arienzo said. “Our reading volunteers help to provide ‘miles on the tongue.’”

The volunteers for the program are not paid for the time they spend tutoring the children, but they benefit too, according to Loeffelholz.

“Many of these guys don’t have roots here,” she said. “This gives them a chance to get involved in their community.”

The USS Maine, stationed at NBK-Bangor, provides many volunteers to the school through their gold crew contact, Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Snipes, and their blue crew contact, Petty Officer 2nd Class Lidon Pearce, Loeffholz said.

The volunteers provided are trained by Joey Spitz, a media specialist at Emerald Heights, according to Loeffholz.

“He is able to offer tutoring for our tutors,” she said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Gjersvold, one of the blue crew volunteers, runs a literacy group for third- and fourth-graders.

“I love working with the kids,” Gjersvold said. “It is rewarding. You have to have something outside of work to reward yourself. I feel like I should be giving back to the community for what the community does for us. It is hard times for schools. We need to do what we can because these kids are the future.”

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