In an effort to ensure there is a bridge of support established between students, their classroom and their family, a local non-profit youth agency has developed a new enrichment program to put focus on academic success. The Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford recently received funding through the Delaware 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative.
The grant funding is made available through the Delaware Department of Education. The funding supports schools and community-based organizations that collaborate on opportunities to provide after-school and summer learning programs in high-poverty school districts. The goal is to assist students in gaining academic enrichment that will help them meet state and local achievement standards in core academic subjects including reading and math.
The Seaford Boys & Girls Club is working in partnership with the Seaford School District on the “Great Futures” program. The program uses school teachers working in tandem with B&G Club staff, to provide students with academic support outside of the classroom.
Chris Couch, executive director of the Western Sussex B&G Club, says the Great Futures program provides academic support for the students and a lot more. “The goal of this project is to bridge the school with the Boys & Girls Club to engage the kids in academic, recreational, and character and leadership programs and activities,” he said.
Couch says current and recently retired Seaford School District teachers are being hired to provide tutoring to students in an effort to expand the B&G Club’s existing “Power Hour” academic tutoring program. The Power Hour program is a traditional part of Boys & Girls Club sites statewide. According to Couch, during the school year a focus is placed on helping club members with their classroom homework. “Homework completion is a critical component of a young person’s academic success. During Power Hour our club staff encourages members to become self-directed learners.” He said the short-term goal of the program is to help young people develop academic, behavioral, and social skills through homework completion; the long-term goal is to ensure that youth graduate from high school, pursue post-secondary educations and become life-long learners.
The Great Futures program started in June and currently teachers are in the process of being hired to oversee the “high-yield” learning activities. During the summer, Couch said all club members are being assessed to determine which young people need the tutoring support and in what subjects.
According to Great Futures Project Director, Staci Wyatt, as of the first week in July there were 11 teachers hired for the program. She said English/language arts and math tutoring is slated to start in mid-July. “We are assessing every child that participates in the B&G Club Summer Fun Club so we are sure that any child who needs the program will receive it,” she said.
Wyatt said the youth will also be assessed at the end of the summer to see the impact of the program on their academic learning. She said the goal of the summer program is that 60 percent of those youth being tutored in English/language arts and 55 percent of those being tutored in math show academic improvement based on data from the end of summer assessments.
Couch said another critical dynamic of the Great Futures program has all Seaford elementary schools and the middle school, assigning an academic liaison who will communicate daily with the Great Futures “Family and Schools coordinator.” This ensures that the needs of the students in the schools, who are being assessed and referred to the program, get the necessary tutoring support at the club.
Melinda Brittingham, Family and Schools coordinator for the program, is excited about the impact the Great Futures program can have on student academic success. She is equally excited about what the program will do to help families stay connected in their children’s education.
Brittingham said in her role she will work to ensure there is communication between the schools, the club and the families as it pertains to the needs of the students being served through the Great Futures program. “Because the kids are here at the Boys and Girls Club in the afternoons we are able to see the families more often than the schools. I will be in the schools during the school year speaking with liaisons to identify those kids who need that extra academic help.
“We will also be able to assist the families should there be issues including language barriers, or to provide parents with assistance in knowing how best to help their children with school work at home,” she said. Brittingham said having teachers from the school district working with the program as tutors will also be a resource in identifying those students who are in need of the Great Futures program support.
Another component of the Great Futures program is a monthly family engagement event that will be held at the Seaford B&G Club. The event will allow the program participants and their families to be involved in recreational opportunities offered at the club, but will also include special instructional workshops for parents to help them support their children’s education.
“We are working with the schools to have teachers attend the Family Engagement events and be available to help families better understand the subject matter that their children need help,” Brittingham said. “This will be a great opportunity for parents to learn math and reading tips that can help them to better understand what their children are learning in the classroom. We want to help families to be equipped to help their children with their homework.”
Couch said if some families still find it difficult to help their children with homework for any reason, they can enroll their children at the Seaford Boys & Girls Club and receive access to the Great Futures program.
As project director, Wyatt says she sees one of her most important roles is to provide the resources needed to those who are involved in the Great Futures program. “I want to make sure that everyone including the teachers, the Families and Schools coordinator and all program staff have the tools they need to make sure the program runs smoothly. If we do this, I believe the students will be getting the best that this program has to offer,” she said.
Wyatt said gaining insight from stakeholders from within the Seaford community is very valuable. She said a special community advisory committee is being put together. It will include representatives from existing partners such as Soroptimist International of Seaford, and the Seaford Police Department. In addition, serving on the committee will be parents, students themselves, and Seaford educators.
“We want to have this committee let us know how the program is doing. We want to hear their ideas about what we are doing right, as well as areas they feel we can improve on,” she said. “We plan to have our first meeting at the end of the summer and then possibly hold them quarterly. But, we want the committee members to come anytime and observe and share their thoughts.”
Wyatt said the program will have teachers tutoring small groups of students who will be grouped based on where they have been assessed academically. “We will have some groups who may have third graders and fifth graders grouped together, because that is where these students are in terms of academic proficiency. I am giving the teachers’ free reign in terms of how they tutor. These are phenomenal teachers and in many cases, they already know these students and know all about being successful teachers. They are using instructional materials that are being used in the classroom and the students are familiar. We are letting the teachers build their own lesson plans. We are very fortunate to have amazing teachers,” she said.
Wyatt said in some cases students are being grouped with teachers they have had in the school setting to enhance the comfortability of the tutoring sessions.
Chris Couch said the Great Futures program is part of a five-year 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. However, this does not mean that the Boys & Girls Clubs can rest on its laurels in terms of program success. “Each year we will conduct an assessment of the program and submit a report to the Department of Education,” he said. “We will be doing assessments annually to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the community. This means we will revise our goals and program itself to make sure we are successful in providing the necessary academic support for the students we serve.”