The Dollar General Literacy Foundation awarded Restoring Lives $3,500 to help start a new after-school program at Jefferson Elementary School for kids who struggle with reading.
Restoring Lives is a nonprofit organization that addresses the mental health needs of communities through education, mentoring and support groups for families. Founder Shenita Jones said after-school programs are new territory for the organization, but she ran a similar program at a local church several years ago with volunteer teachers.
“We’re partnered with Jefferson, but in the future we may be able to partner with other schools,” Jones said. “Our desire is for us to eventually have our own building because my understanding is that we don’t have enough after-school programs for the population of children we have in the city.”
The grant will be used to buy a class set of 10 Chromebooks, which will emphasize computer literacy and homework. Jones said she’s still working to get the program fully funded, but it may begin as early as this year. The program will include one-on-one tutoring with teachers and volunteers, followed by computer-based learning in the spring.
“They do have a computer lab, but this will help with the one-on-one,” Jones said. “Whatever else is left will go toward supplies and administrative costs.”
Jones said she’s applied for other grants to help pay teachers that stay after school to teach the program.
“I already have a food program I’m approved for through the department of education, so we’ll have snacks,” Jones said.
Jones said the planned program will also include mentoring for students and training for parents.
“The curriculum has changed since we’ve come through school,” Jones said. “Then you have single parents that could be working more than one job, so there are a lot of factors that go into it.”
Jones said she is also forming a student assistance program to address the mental health needs of young students, which can go undiagnosed and cause students to struggle.
“Some students need extra help when it comes to social skills and emotional skills, and all of that comes into play with literacy, because there could be an environmental or traumatic history that is causing some of that,” Jones said.
Jones said free educational apps can be a good way to introduce kids to new topics.
“It’s just a matter of people accessing the things that are there,” Jones said. “Kids are so technology driven.”
Introducing the Chromebooks at a young age will prepare the students to use them in middle and high school.