BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and the YMCA have worked together for several years now to eliminate the summer opportunity gap, accelerate students’ academic achievement, and close the achievement gap. Students come from Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford, and are called “scholars” to demonstrate high expectations. Scholars are encouraged to “Be Extraordinary,” the program’s motto.
Each year, our program serves over 200 students. Each day, students have academic education in math and literacy for 3 hours, then participate in 1.5 hours of enrichment courses, such as art, drama, music, STEM, life skills, physical education, and more. Each week students go on field trips or have workshops with community leaders.
Program goals include:
- Increase scholars’ literacy and math skills and help them avoid summer learning loss.
- Strengthen scholars’ self-confidence, social/emotional development, and physical health and well-being.
- Increase parental engagement.
On average over the summer, students in this program have gained an average of 1.5 months in reading ability and 2 months in math ability. A gain of 1 month is equivalent to how much a student learns during 10% of the school year. On average, disadvantaged students not in a summer learning program lose an average of 2 months of learning during each summer. Teachers report that students are more self-confident, while parents report that not only are they now more involved in their children's education, but that the students enjoyed the summer learning experience.
Scholar enrollment is led by the Power Scholars Academy leadership team and guided by the school principal. Priority is generally given to enrolling scholars who are struggling academically and who would otherwise lack access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. Scholars whose principal required them to participate are enrolled first, followed by scholars invited but not required to attend.
Family involvement is also a key component of the program. At the start of the summer, parents are strongly encouraged to attend a Parent Orientation
to learn about expectations for their participation, review policies and procedures, answer questions, and reinforce the importance of scholar attendance. Power Scholars Academy staff members provide regular updates to parents on their children’s progress and challenges through phone calls, progress reports, and a mid-program Open House. All parents are invited to attend a Closing Ceremony celebration, at which scholars perform skits, songs, and theatrical presentations.