As an educator, it is my personal belief that education is the most practical solution to help
eliminate poverty in households and communities. That is why our CORE Education Programs exist!
In the education world today, there is a lot of discussion around third graders reading on
grade level because of it being a predictor for future success. Research reveals the number
one indicator of reading success is linked to socioeconomic status. Couple this with
students entering pre-k and kindergarten without speaking English, and many of the students in our community are a couple of laps behind before the race even starts.
As a former elementary teacher, I worked with students like this, who entered 5th grade with academic gaps, many of whom were performing 1-2 years or more below grade level. Additionally, I witnessed students falling further behind during the summer months, an expression we call the “summer slide”. The desire to prevent this digression over the summer months is the catalyst behind our CORE Camp. CORE Camp was established in 2016 in partnership with Dalton Public Schools. This Program grew in success, and in January of 2019, we launched a soft start of an Afterschool Program, called Kid City. Because of the established CORE Programs, DPS and CORD decided to co-apply for the 21st Century Grant and were awarded this grant in July. The 21st Century Grant is a 5-year federal grant that will provide us with sustainability as our programs grow in success. This Federal Grant supports programs providing opportunities for students in the areas of Academic Achievement, Youth Development, and Family Engagement.
The ultimate goal of the Kid City program is to reclaim both academic and opportunity gaps for our students. Many of the students referred to our program from the school system, are struggling academically in either reading or math. Due to the physics of school, many of our
students would not be able to fill in academic gaps and make the expected year’s growth attending school alone. That is where out of school hours comes into play. Between evenings, weekends, and holidays students spend 80 percent of their waking hours out of school. Research from the Afterschool Alliance shows that students who regularly participate in quality afterschool programs are more likely to develop strong social skills, improve work habits and grades, have better attendance, and higher graduation rates. All of these skills are needed in the workforce and are essential in community sustainability overtime.
Our Kid City program is a holistic program that provides basic needs such as food and a safe place to come after school. We are intentional about character education and discipleship,
as it is how we begin our day. Students participate in an hour of academic time each day that consists of targeted academic interventions in reading and math led by certified teachers and Dalton State education students. Students also have technology lessons and homework assistance during their academic time. In addition to academic support, students participate in an hour of enrichment time. One of the goals of Enrichment is Health and Wellness. Two days a week during enrichment time, students participate in physical fitness clubs such as soccer, running, yoga, and Zumba. In combination with Fitness Clubs, we have teaching about social emotional topics such as growth mindset, goal setting, & mindfulness to support emotional health as well as physical health. Other Enrichment Opportunities include Fine Arts classes such as dance, music, theater, and visual arts. Students also have the opportunity to choose to participate in clubs based upon their interests such as LEGO Robotics, Graphic Design, Fast Food, Science Club, Arts & Crafts, among others.
In addition to the quality programming we are providing for our students, we are also working to establish and foster relationships with families. We provide multiple family engagement opportunities each semester for parents to learn with their students at grade level math and literacy dinners, family nights, and through partnerships with Dalton State College Learning Academies and Georgia Public Broadcasting Family Creative Learning Programs.
For anyone who has had the opportunity to tour the City of Refuge building, you have seen it is a beautiful place of opportunity for our students and their families, and our students LOVE coming here! It truly is a refuge for many. I encourage those who have not seen the facility or program to schedule a time to visit. I wholeheartedly believe in the impact our CORE Programs are making. The lives we are changing and the futures we are shaping will provide our students and ultimately our community with sustainability and success.
BY MALISA PEDRO, DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION