Skip to main content

Funding ends for effort that prepares rising fifth-graders

By Sharieka Botex
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A summer enrichment program that has worked to help rising sixth-graders make a successful transition to middle school for 11 years is out of funding and its future remains uncertain.

The Student Success Academy started in Pitt County in 2006 to help struggling students with reading, math and life skills during a five-week program that partnered nonprofit agencies that serve local youth with law enforcement and the the school system.

The program, which hired teaching staff and coordinated volunteers at sites throughout the county, initially was funded by the United Way of Pitt County. The program expanded to include an after-school component after it received $1.27 million federal grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program in 2013. The United Way and the school system continued to coordinate the program.

The graduation of 77 students from the summer session on Thursday, however, also spelled the end of the grant money. Officials said the grant was not renewed, and other sources have not been secured. “This could be the last year,” said Robin Dailey, a consultant for the program.

Fifth-grade teachers in Pitt County Schools recommend students for the program to help them make the transition from elementary to middle school, meet state and local standards in core academic subjects such as reading and math, and keeping students on track toward graduation. 

It also offered science, technology, engineering, arts and math activities to complement regular academic programs and offered parents and caregivers engagement opportunities.

The program focused on youth at risk of slipping through the cracks, officials said, providing them a $1,200 scholarship to attend. Curriculum centered on fifth-grade concepts that students did not master. 

“We also introduce some of the new skills for the sixth-grade so when they walk into class they are going to feel more prepared and can be more of a leader as they move into the sixth-grade classrooms,” Dailey said.

This summer a 12-teacher staff worked with students on English, language arts, math and character building. They were assigned to read “On My Honor” by Marion Dan Bauer and “We Beat the Street” by George W. Jenkins, Rameck Hunt, Sampson Davis and Sharon Draper. 

Classes were held daily at Farmville Middle School, A.G. Cox Middle School, Wellcome Middle School and Building Hope Community Center, said Jackie Smithwick, program director.

“These are students who really wanted to grow in their reading and math skills, and they want to be a part of something in the summer that helps them academically,” Smithwick said. 

Krystal Harrison, one of four interns with the program this summer, worked with students on a beautification project at Building Hope and helped chaperone field trips with students to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, East Carolina University and Bricks 4 Kidz, a Lego learning center in Winterville.

“We went to ECU,” Harrison said. “That kind of gives them an eye-opener to something they might have not known is an option.” 

It costs about $350,000 to operate the academy’s seven after-school programs and the summer program, Smithwick said. The summer program alone is about $150,000.

Dailey said the program contributed to efforts to curb high dropout rates. Dropout rates have declined in Pitt County from 3.32 in 2011-12, when 243 students quit, to 2.01 last year, when 150 students left without graduating.

The dropout rate is the number of students who quit high school divided by the total number who attended in the same time period.