’21st Century’ summer tutoring program gives students a boost

Published 10:05 pm Friday, June 30, 2017

For some students, summer means sleeping late each morning then rolling out of the bed onto the couch with little to do and nowhere to go. But for about 30 rising sixth graders each morning, school is still in session and the learning continues.

The program — called 21st Century — has been an important part of student enrichment for the Brookhaven School District both during the school year and the summer. This approaching school year marks the fourth year for the program, which is housed at Lipsey School and targets sixth-12th graders. The summer program runs for four weeks in the mornings of June, from 8 a.m. until noon. Students are provided with bus transportation, if needed, to and from the program, and fed breakfast and lunch while there. Soon after the school year starts, the after-school program operates from 4-6:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Both programs are free for students to attend and they can be accepted into the program through a simple application process. 

The true mission of the program is to keep students involved in the learning process and offer supplemental support for their assignments and tests. During the school year, teachers can assist with homework, approaching projects and study for tests. Then, in the summer, students are exposed to art, participate in PE, complete computer lessons in math and language arts and have reading time in groups. In fact, the required summer reading book is completed with students taking an Accelerated Reader test at the end to earn points. These points will be applied to their student log even before the school year begins. During June, about 20 to 30 rising sixth-grade students attended daily.

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“The program is beneficial year round,” said Lipsey Assistant Principal Eric Stokes, onsite director for the program. “The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math. Additionally, it offers career and technical programs, recreation and drug and violence prevention education.”

Pam Davis, a science teacher at Alexander Jr. High during the regular year, works both after school and during the summer. She said that while the skills for better performance in class are reinforced, students learn more about themselves and each other. 

“By coming students build confidence, character, and provides for positive interaction with peers under the close supervision of teachers and administrators,” Davis said. “It is very well rounded and helps close gaps in reading and math deficiencies.”

Malaya Harris, an entering sixth grader, said she understands firsthand how the reading practice has benefitted her. The sixth-grade summer reading book, “The Bad Beginning,” which is the first book in the Lemony Snicket series, was read in groups with discussions held along the way to make sure students were understanding the elements of the book. She said this particular book would normally be above her reading level, but by working in groups with guided reading she successfully finished the book and passed the post-test.

“Coming here is a lot of fun,” Harris said. “I got my summer reading finished and did the test before school even started. Most kids want to stay in bed and just play around outside but this way you can do different things while you are here like art, time in the gym and work on the computer.”

Cathy McDonnieal, the art teacher at Lipsey, participates in both the after-school and summer programs. McDonnieal said with the programs outside of normal school hours, students can work in smaller groups and get individualized attention that helps boost their self esteem. 

“The teachers here help keep them motivated through several different areas of learning,” she said. “They can get the extra help and will feel more successful because of the results. With art, it can be a place where kids can travel, through imagination, and feel good about themselves.”

The program in the fall will begin in early September and last through April. Federal Programs Director Rob McCreary said each year the district comes up with part of the funding to keep the program going. The first two years, the federal grant covered 100 percent of the costs. Now, in its fourth year, the program is asked to supply 40 percent of the cost and can use in-kind staff, facilities and supplies to help meet the requirement. 

“We are committed to providing this service for those middle school through high school students who want to come,” McCreary said. “It is an amazing opportunity for students to receive the guidance and assistance they need to be academically successful.”

Applications for the free program will be made available in the front offices and through school counselors at Lipsey, Alexander Jr. High and Brookhaven High beginning in late August or early September. Students are encouraged to attend the available three days per week but can use the program as needed. 

By JoAnna Sproles