Community Investment Fund Spotlight: Helping Students Make the Grade

Posted February 8, 2016
Blog atlantacifspotlight 2016

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site team sup­ports the res­i­dent-led Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Fund, which award­ed 15 small grants in 2015. This blog post series high­lights how recip­i­ents used their grant to improve the lives of kids and fam­i­lies in Atlanta’s Neigh­bor­hood Plan­ning Unit V (NPU‑V). 

In this spot­light, Christie Cade shares how she and friend Car­ol Maple used a $4,200 grant from the Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Fund to launch a Com­mon Core Coach­ing edu­ca­tion pro­gram for local students. 

The issue: Kids in the Pitts­burgh neigh­bor­hood go to Atlanta Pub­lic Schools. There are a lot of chal­lenges get­ting the chil­dren to hit the mark and move to the next grade lev­el, let alone mas­ter the Com­mon Core learn­ing prin­ci­ples. Resources are lim­it­ed. Tutor­ing doesn’t go on. The pop­u­la­tion that we are reach­ing out to does not have the best sup­port to help them achieve their goals.

At the same time, we believe that every child needs a cham­pi­on, a cheer­leader and a coach. Kids need some­one to look up to. They need some­one to help them learn, carve out a path and bring them back in align­ment when they go astray. I think that’s what we are miss­ing in soci­ety right now and that sup­port is so important.

A solu­tion: Every Sat­ur­day dur­ing the school year, we host a free two-hour coach­ing ses­sion for kids in first to sixth grade. Dur­ing our first semes­ter, we saw any­where from eight to 12 stu­dents at a time. We start­ed by assess­ing each child to see what skills they had con­quered and what grade lev­el they were on. These assess­ments also helped us design our coach­ing around their spe­cif­ic needs. Our goal was very spe­cif­ic: We want­ed to help the chil­dren mas­ter the core con­cepts for the school year relat­ed to read­ing, lan­guage arts and mathematics.

Mon­ey mat­ters: We used the grant to buy sup­plies, books, dic­tio­nar­ies, the­saurus­es and learn­ing games. We also bought four com­put­ers, which the kids used for assess­ments and skills devel­op­ment exer­cis­es. In Decem­ber, each child received a back­pack with school sup­plies and a learn­ing game. They also received a dic­tio­nary because we will focus on build­ing their vocab­u­lary this spring. They were crazy excit­ed, and we are ready for them.

Evi­dence of suc­cess: We have a sixth-grad­er who was read­ing below kinder­garten lev­el. When I learned this, I went home and cried. I saw the sta­tis­tics stand­ing in front of me: Young black male who can­not read. I thought about how lim­it­ed his future and his job options would be. We pro­vid­ed one-on-one coach­ing to him. We gath­ered up cas­sette tapes and books and had to go back to phon­ics. One Sat­ur­day, he came and sur­prised us. He read us one of the books we had giv­en him. It was a see-Jane-run kind of book. And we were scream­ing. We were scream­ing out of the sheer joy of know­ing that he was one step clos­er to beat­ing the odds.

The Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Fund at a Glance

What: A Casey-fund­ed pro­gram that awards a total $50,000 in small grants rang­ing from $500 to $5,000.

Who and Where: A res­i­dent board over­sees the fund, which is open to com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions and net­works in Atlanta’s NPU‑V.

Why: To pro­mote com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven change by empow­er­ing res­i­dents to tack­le com­mon neigh­bor­hood challenges.

When: Appli­ca­tions for the 2016 Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Fund cycle are due March 182016.

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