You Can Go Home Again


By Melissa Mercon-Smith/Guest columnist 

Ashland TAB 


It’s true; you can go home again...if you’re a high school or college student who once attended the Ashland Extended 

Day Program, that is. We’ve always claimed that once you become a part of the EDP family, it’s a relationship that lasts forever. This philosophy has proven to be true time and time again as waves of former EDP students return to the roost as volunteers, and in some cases, employees. 

While I’ll never get used to looking up in order to look them in the eye, I am always thrilled when our former charges express an interest in returning to the place they spent so many of their childhood hours. Transitioning from student to staff is something they seem to take to quite readily, and we’re always amazed at how quickly they slip back into the routines that were once so familiar to them. 

Knowing what a great help they are to us, and knowing how much the younger EDP students enjoy their presence, I have never questioned the wisdom of having them around. However, I was curious as to what motivated these high school students, with their heavy course load, sports schedules, and countless other activities, to take on yet another obligation. The responses I got to my questions reaffirmed my initial assumption about the relationships that are forged during their earlier years. 

Aaron Kaplow, in his Common Application essay for college, wrote, “As a student, the Ashland Extended Day Program was the haven that I could go to every day. Although I adjusted well to my new situation in middle school, I constantly found myself wanting to go back to Extended Day. I was ecstatic when, as a high school freshman, I became a volunteer, and then later a paid aide. Not only will I forever remember going to Extended Day for the rest of my life, I will try to create meaningful moments for others.” 

Laura Priests, now a college freshman, called upon her “great memories of being part of EDP to come back and make even more” for the younger students she served while volunteering and working as an aide. 

For Tamara Maswoswe, Ashland High School’s 2010 valedictorian, volunteering and working at the EDP was an opportunity to show the students that “you can hold a job that you love and do well in school.”  She stated that she still is “attached to EDP and can’t imagine life without it. Even though I’m at college in a different state now, I want to give back to the amazing program that helped me to become the successful student and person that I am today.” How happy we were when she spent several afternoons with us over her fall break from Princeton! 

Other former EDP students who currently volunteer or work as aides include: Taylor Ferrazzi, Nikki Ianiro, Miles Kaplow, Bri Maher, Ben Marsh, Thomas Marsh, Travis Upham, and Kelsey Vreeland. Some, like Miles, have just begun to volunteer, while others, such as Kelsey, spent several years volunteering before joining the regular staff as an aide. Miles watched his older brother help out for four years and contacted the Extended Day Program over the summer to make arrangements to volunteer. We’re happy he has chosen to continue the family tradition of giving back.


Brothers Ben and Thomas Marsh often work side-by-side setting up snack, cleaning the gym closet, or helping in study hall. In their words, “The jobs we do help the program run smoother. We also try to be good role models.” Kelsey enjoys helping to solve problems that may occur and feels she is having an impact on the students’ lives. Travis Upham “was inspired to work at EDP by remembering the fun I had as a kid attending EDP. I wanted to be a part of those kinds of experiences for the kids currently enrolled.” Nikki is surprised to see how similar the students are to how she remembers herself so many years ago, and will use that insight when working with them. 

It was most rewarding to hear that due to her teacher aide experiences at the program, Taylor Ferrazzi has decided to pursue an education degree next year. It’s nice to see that the ripples, which started so many years ago, will continue to spread into the future! 

Having paid high school aides began as an experiment five years ago with one high school student. Heather Hay, now a junior at Miami of Ohio and a frequent visitor on school breaks, contributed so much to the program and so exceeded our expectations that we decided to make high school aides a regular part of the program. Thank you to Heather for forging the way for all those who followed you! 

The high school students’ contributions to the Ashland Extended Day Program demonstrate that the whole definitely is greater than the sum of its parts. As Bri Maher put it so humbly, “I think I contribute a small amount to the whole program. My goal is to make sure the kids have fun with us.” In the words of the song It Takes A Village, written especially for the Extended Day Program, “Every beat from every drum, no matter how small, must sound with them all.” 

(Thank you to all of the former EDP students who contributed material for this article.)