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**Enhance Learning with VPK: The Ultimate Blend for Students and Student Teachers**

MacKenzie Lewis experiences great satisfaction when witnessing the moment a 4-year-old student in the Hawk’s Nest VPK program at Viera High School comprehends her teachings. She describes the joy of seeing a student grasp a concept as akin to a lightbulb illuminating in their mind.

Despite her passion for educating young children, Lewis herself is still a student. As a senior at Viera High, she actively participates in the school’s Early Childhood Program. This initiative enables students to engage with young learners, preparing them for the transition to Kindergarten.

Michelle Zeppieri, the program’s lead teacher, expresses admiration for the interaction between high schoolers and young children. She highlights the positive impact of older students bringing their high energy and unique appeal to the teaching environment.

The VPK program, a longstanding initiative in Brevard County and the state, offers valuable opportunities for students. Participants not only earn high school credits but also work towards obtaining their Child Development Associate Certificate. Additionally, they have the chance to earn credits at Eastern Florida State College.

Zeppieri, with 23 years of teaching experience, underscores the program’s benefits for both high school and preschool students. She collaborates with her instructional assistant, Claudia Ventura, to create engaging lesson plans that make learning enjoyable for all involved.

Amy Ciak, a senior at Viera High, shares her enthusiasm for the program, emphasizing how it aligns with her aspirations of becoming a child life specialist. She values the hands-on experience of working with children, which provides valuable insights for her future career.

The VPK students participate in the program four days a week, with Mondays dedicated to training high school students in child interaction, lesson planning, and data analysis. Third-year students also receive training in CPR.

Lewis, aspiring to become a high school math teacher, acknowledges the challenges of working with new children each year. She highlights the importance of getting to know each child individually throughout the academic year.

This year’s VPK program comprises 18 students, engaging with 25 to 28 high school students across six periods daily. Field trips to various locations, such as a pumpkin patch, the Brevard Zoo, and a fire station, enhance the learning experience for the students.

Looking ahead, the class plans to visit an elementary school to familiarize themselves with the campus, including the Kindergarten classrooms. Zeppieri expresses a desire for greater community awareness of the program’s offerings, emphasizing that the VPK program is accessible to all and free of charge.