Talk with rising fourth grade students in the Power Scholars Academy at Montgomery, Alabama’s Carver Elementary School and they’ll quickly tell you about their plans for the future.
I want to be an artist. -- I want to go to Troy University, study education and be a teacher.
10-year-old Jordan, and 9-year-old Syndey know what they want out of life. Before they finish college and grab those dream jobs, they also know there are hurdles ahead – like high school, and what’s more, high school graduation.
Programs like this free summer academy in Alabama’s capital city, hope to keep students on track for graduation and avoid the summer learning slip that often plagues poor and minority youths.
Kids can’t be left at home for three months without having something to do. So it’s imperative to keep the learning going, and you can do that in a fun setting.
That’s Alma Powell. She’s leader of America’s Promise Alliance, a group that wants to increase nationwide graduation rates to 90 percent.
Here at Carver, they’re working toward that goal. The singing and foot stomping you hear are sounds of rehearsal as scholars prepare to show parents what they’ve learned over the past six weeks.
They’ve had hands on studies in math. They’ve studied reading, science and the arts too, says Jacqueline Jackson, instructional coach.
We’re using songs. We’re doing it through the arts. We’re doing it through stems, so learning is fun to all of our scholars.
Math Song (Second part)
The YMCA and Building Educated Leaders for Life invest in the academy to help propel students through these critical elementary learning years, Jackson says.
It’s very important that once they reach fourth grade they are reading on grade level in order to help them graduate. Once they are here, I think we have them pretty much, locked in.
Summer programs face hurdles, says Sarah Pitcock of the National Association for Summer Learning.
There is a perception that summer school is punishment and a lot of children and their families don’t want to spend their summers that way.
But the hot days of summer bring benefits for students when they’re spent soaking up learning, says Pitcock.
Summer is the only chance kids have to get caught up and get ahead.
And that boost helps kids from falling behind and being held back says Sandy Addis of the National Center for Dropout Prevention.
Summer programs are a great anti-retention tool, and we know that there is a strong correlation between being retained in grade and not graduating.
They are most effective when they include some academics, recreation, and just plain fun, Addis says.
Anything that magnetizes a child to school certainly will help.
At Camp Fletcher, just west of Birmingham, dozens of campers spend their summer trekking through the woods, canoeing, singing and of course – swimming. But this camp is more than just a summer get away for kids like 4th grader Lauren Parish.
Sometimes when we go on nature hikes, we learn about fish, and trees and birds. At school, we still talk about nature, and it’s good to know these things.
Often the key to success for children is linked to the positive role modeling of counselors, like Courtney King, at Camp Fletcher. A counselor helped her through a difficult period after the death of her mother. She now returns from Mississippi State to help others. King especially enjoys teaching kids resilience and determination by.
Working on completing things and like trying to encourage the kids not to give up. Even if they are not the best, you encourage them to still do it and still try it.
Alma Powell of America’s Promise says it’s those kind of mentoring experiences that can help propel more students to graduate.
That old saying, it takes a village to raise a child – it does. It takes the entire community committed to young people.
[FADE IN GLORY]
Something she said every citizen in this country ought to be a part of. This is Sherrel Wheeler Stewart for the Southern Education Desk.
This report was made possible through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the impact of GEAR UP, a federally funded program that provides learning opportunities for kids in poor communities.