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Editorial: School joins enrichment efforts

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The educators at The Oakwood School in Greenville deserve our congratulations and thanks for the investment they have made in low-income students’ lives by providing them with a K-8 summer enrichment program.

The school joins the list of public and private efforts to supplement children’s education at a difficult time of year. Such efforts need to be enlarged wherever and however they can throughout the city and Pitt County.

Horizons at The Oakwood School will engage 15 kindergartners, who will spend six weeks at the school participating in hands-on, project-based academic, cultural and confidence-building activities aimed at preparing them for first grade, project executive director Kris Arnold said.

The program’s goal is to reduce the “summer slide,” the loss of teacher and school contact during summer break. For most young low-income students, that break disconnects them from books, educational materials and much of what they learned during the previous school year. It also disconnects them from another critical need: square meals.

Arnold made a brief but powerful observation while pointing out that, although Oakwood is a private school, it prides itself on having a public mission.

“We want to connect with the community as much as we can ... to instill that strength of character and creativity,” he said.

It is a testament to the potential every person possesses, whether a professional educator or an average individual, to make an impact on a community’s destination through simple engagement.

Arnold and his colleagues recognize the huge challenge communities in eastern North Carolina face in the form of poverty, education and even food insecurity. But rather than bow to the complexities attached to the problem, they act simply in a way that can make a difference.

“We need a way to support them throughout the summer and get them ready for the next grade level,” he said.

This program is not unique. The public schools also have state-funded summer enrichment programs that address the same goals, as do volunteer- staffed, donor-funded charitable organizations. Not new, but growing, hopefully.

At a time when nearly every issue seems steeped in deep political polarization, it can be easy to direct blame and responsibility for the causes and consequences of educational failure, rather than do something to relieve it. The blame, however, never rests on a 5-year-old child.

The idea of a community uniting creatively to find ways to uplift a child’s future by supporting and encouraging more of what the caring professionals at The Oakwood School and elsewhere do for our children is always welcome news at the end of a challenging year.

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