The Heart of the Valley YMCA’s BELL Power Scholars Academy (PSA), wrapped up its five-week summer learning program earlier this month. Power Scholars Academy is a partnership with community organizations and Alabama’s 21st Century federal funding to ensure that K-6 students in under-resourced households receive math, reading, and enrichment to overcome learning loss typical during summer vacation from school.
“On average, children without access to quality learning experiences lose two months of academic skills over the school break, putting them at an academic disadvantage in the fall. Such losses accumulate year after year,” said Dr. Libby Parker, Education Coordinator for the Heart of the Valley YMCA. “Over time, this gap cumulates in low high school graduation and college attainment rates, limited job prospects, and negative economic impact.”
Power Scholars Academy has proven its efficacy in combatting summer learning loss. In 2022, BellXcel showed that students participating in the program gained more than two months of knowledge in reading and one month in math.
All children have potential, but some may need additional support to reach it. Research shows that children from underserved and low-income households often start school unprepared and fall behind their peers resulting in an achievement gap. Through focused programming and support the YMCA is committed to closing this gap.
The Heart of the Valley YMCA has provided Power Scholars Academy for the past seven years to school sites in Madison and Marshall Counties. This summer, Brindlee Mountain Elementary School, New Market Elementary School, and Guntersville Elementary School provided literacy and math education to 231 K-6 students presented by certified teachers along with enrichment classes and field trips ensuring that they won’t be left behind when the bell rings for class this fall.
The students at Guntersville Elementary also completed a service learning project by filling Busy Boxes with various STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) projects and activities for the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to play with while they undergo treatment. Boxes include button dolls, friendship bracelets, paper seed bombs that can be grown in a pot indoors, special artwork, cards, and more.
Julia Covington, the community engagement coordinator for Guntersville City Schools, says that with this service learning, “they’re connecting the dots and understanding that they’re doing something beyond themselves for someone else.”
Power Scholars Academy is one program component of Heart of the Valley YMCA’s commitment to Closing the Achievement Gap beginning with quality licensed child care and First Class Pre-K through teen leadership programs such as Youth in Government.
The Heart of the Valley YMCA’s community partners are Guntersville City Schools, Madison County Schools, Marshall County Schools, and BellXcel with funding by The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama, and 21st Century Community Learning Center/U.S. Department of Education.