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This summer, United Way of Central Alabama and partner agencies, such as the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, AG Gaston Boys and Girls Club, and the Boys and Girls Club of Central Alabama, launched an innovative educational program called Bold Goals Academy. Its goal? Help students “catch up” by accelerating their learning, both academically and socially, to fill the gaps caused by COVID-19 school closures.
Launched in June 2021, this pilot program has proven to be a huge success, with more than 250 students participating in the initiative at nine schools in the city of Birmingham and one school in Jefferson County. Today, the project is ready to expand throughout the city and beyond.
Here’s why it is a game-changer for our students and their families in our community.
Unfinished Learning – A Desperate Need
Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey called it “unfinished learning.”
This is the term he uses to describe the negative impact on students and their education system following the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Dr. Mackey predicts that we will be facing this problem within the next 5-10 years.
Recognizing that students may have experienced a learning loss spanning four to 12 months, Centraide took action this spring, doing what it does best: getting people in our community to work together. In fact, the United Way Bold Goals Coalition has challenged its 200 members to devise creative ways to resolve this crisis.
âIt’s critical that families, school districts, after-school providers and social service organizations find new ways to work together to accelerate student learning and create pathways to academic success,â said Ryan Parker, vice-president of the Bold Goals Coalition. . âOver the past year, a lot of kids have been in and out of school or have learned virtually. To catch up with them and learn at the level they need will require additional support. “
How the program worked
So how does the Bold Goals Academy work? From the start, Centraide has built strong partnerships between schools, after-school program providers and social service organizations to put students on the path to a better future.
Then they launched an intensive academic program that targets and reaches students who need extra support.
The Academy did this by incorporating the following into the pilot program:
- Schools were selected in coordination with school districts based on data on academic skills.
- The programs adhered to state standards and were designed in coordination with school standards. They also tailored the program to the needs of each student.
- Financial assistance has been offered to ensure that the cost of the program is not a barrier for participating students.
How it worked in the field
Tamara Burney, vice-principal of Oliver Elementary School, told us that after United Way and the Boys and Girls Club AG Gaston chose her school, they asked her to identify fourth and fifth graders capable of receive additional math and reading lessons throughout the day. .
The Academy and the Boys and Girls Club then set up a program in the ten schools.
âThe Boys and Girls Club focused on reading and math for about two hours throughout the day, but they also held social events,â Burney said. âThe kids needed this. It was something they missed during a pandemic that was so crucial to them. You see, they were sitting at home in isolation with their parents, and the only thing they could do was communicate by phone or Face Time. Being back in the building with their peers, learning and doing these enrichment activities was really great.
After such a difficult year, the social and academic enrichment of the lives of her fourth and fifth graders are key ingredients in the secret sauce of Burney’s and Oliver Elementary’s efforts to help their children “catch up.”
âI think the social time they provided has been very beneficial,â Burney added.
Devin Posey, director of operations at Club GarÃ§ons et Filles AG Gaston, saw the students progress directly.
âThe key is not limited to academics. It’s a question of character and socialization. We have seen the children progress. We have seen their skills improve thanks to the “pre” and “post” tests.
Over the next few months, United Way plans to expand the Bold Goals Academy to include all 5 counties in the central Alabama region.
âWe would like to extend it to other schools in the city of Birmingham, to other county schools, to other districts. We want to forge closer partnerships with other out-of-school providers who offer excellent programs for children to learn different subjects. In partnership with school districts and after-school providers, we want to make these programs more available and accessible for children to help them academically, âconcluded Ryan Parker of United Way.