New public-private enrichment program targets 'summer slide'
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Fifteen public school kindergartners got off the bus at The Oakwood School on Monday morning to cheers from East Carolina University athletes waving pompoms and basketballs.
The students are the inaugural class of Horizons at The Oakwood School, a six-week program focused on academics, cultural enrichment and physical health.
It is part of a national summer enrichment program that puts about 4,500 low-income public school students on the campuses of independent schools and colleges across the country each summer, all at no cost to families.
When The Oakwood School cut the ribbon on its program Monday, North Carolina became the 17th state to participate in Horizons.
“That’s something special,” Director Kris Arnold told the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is definitely a history-making day.”
Arnold said this year’s students are from Lakeforest and Falkland elementary schools, both chosen for their proximity to The Oakwood School’s location on MacGregor Downs Road west of Greenville. The program will add 15 new kindergartners each year, and the same students return every summer through eighth grade.
Students are bused each morning from Lakeforest on Allen Road to The Oakwood School’s campus on MacGregor Downs Road, where they will participate in academic courses and enrichment activities.
“Our focus for the first couple years is math and literacy, and then will grow as the program grows,” Arnold said. “We do have dance classes and music classes that are already going to be starting this year. We have a P.E. course that’s already going to be starting this year. It’s a regular school day but a lot more enrichment.”
The students will go to ECU for swimming lessons for one hour, two to three days per week, Arnold said. Teaching students how to swim is part of the Horizons model and aims to teach pool safety and build trust and self-esteem, according to the Horizons National website.
One in five fatal drowning victims are children younger than 14 years old, and the youth drowning rate is two to three times higher than the national average in predominantly minority communities, the website said.
There also will be a field trip each week to educational sites like River Park North and GO-Science.
The academic portion of the program aims to combat “summer slide,” a term used by educators to describe the learning loss that occurs during the three-month break.
Jenny Gribble, one of two teachers for Horizons at The Oakwood School, said she has worked with other summer programs for low-income children through her work as an instructional coach and former reading specialist for Pitt County Schools, but they typically are not as in-depth.
“Sometimes those programs are a little bit shorter, so we saw gains, but not like we will with these children since they have the opportunity to be here for six weeks,” she said.
Because the same students come back every year, they will develop deep connections with other kids and positive adult role models, Gribble said.
“This program makes a difference for these children,” she said. “It’s going to provide them a home to come to, familiar faces and opportunities they might not normally get.”
Contact Holly West at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9585.