When students go back to school this fall, the Yankton Boys & Girls Club (the club) will be going with them as part of a five-year program to help elementary-school students with academic achievement.
The club announced this week that it has received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The money is to be used to fund the Club Tutors program, which will work in partnership with the Yankton School District (YSD) to help elementary students
The goal of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program is to increase academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools; to help students meet state and local standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; and to offer students a broad array of enrichment activities to complement their regular academic programs, according to the DOE website.
“We are so excited and thankful to be able to offer this service to families in the Yankton community,” said Boys & Girls Club of Yankton Executive Director Koty Frick. “We will be able to give youth in Club Tutors more focused academic help and continue to grow our overall services offered from the Boys & Girls Club.”
The program will be available first at Stewart Elementary School, ultimately branching out to all four of the district’s elementary schools as the program comes online, Tim Lease, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Plains, told the Press & Dakotan.
The first step of the program involves helping select students with assigned material.
“Each of the elementary schools will have students who need help in reading and math or homework,” he said. “It’s going to be a process where teachers will recommend this program after school to families as really helpful for those kids to get extra help.”
This year, educators and families will be carefully watching for learning loss. Some learning loss over the summer is normal, but after last year’s educational experience caused by the pandemic, many parents are concerned with how smoothly their children will transition back to a traditional academic environment.
“(This) is just for those couple of hours after school,” Lease said. “We will be able to collaborate with the teachers and they’ll be able to share, ‘Here’s what we’re working on in math and reading, and here’s what their needs are.’”
Also, club organizers intend to ensure that the families of children in the Club Tutors program have access to transportation, mental health services and healthy food options.
Because the program lasts five years, the Club Tutor program will also offer a “Second Step” involving academic success programming.
“We’ve been working very closely with Superintendent Wayne Kindle, the principals of Yankton’s elementary schools, and then also with the curriculum director, Nicole Valnes, as far as getting materials that align with the standards and the curriculum that the school district uses,” Lease said. “We’ll be able to hire part-time staff to work at each of the elementary schools to be able to work with kids after school to help them out.”
A significant part of ramping up the program will be the staffing component, Lease said, adding that the club is already in contact with Mount Marty University and the University of South Dakota to see if there are education students interested in opportunities to work with youth.
“We’re looking forward to that great collaboration with each of the elementary schools to be able to help out,” he said. “The school district and the Boys & Girls Club, we’re all excited about the positive impact.”
For more information, visit greatfuturessd.org call the club at 605-692-3333.