Nonprofit officials hope school tours will help community see how funds are used
By Jessica Groover
The Academic Learning Center will be offering school site tours to the community to raise awareness about its program, starting this week and continuing through the school year.
LeeAnn Miller, director of development for the nonprofit organization, will take a group of people to visit Fred L. Wilson Elementary School.
The school is one of five that receives funds from the Academic Learning Center for a free after-school program that targets improving math and reading skills for area students.
Fred L. Wilson, Woodrow Wilson, Jackson Park, Shady Brook and Beverly Hills elementary schools are all partnering schools with the Academic Learning Center, or “ALC,” as some of the children refer to it.
Every year, the organization allocates money to participating schools of an amount up to $10,000. This year, schools received $8,000, with $7,500 going toward the program and the rest from a grant that will buy the children a book from the book fair.
Recently, the Academic Learning Center hosted a New Year’s Eve fundraiser and raised $25,000. Money from fundraising, grants and United Way go toward money for the schools’ programs.
Once the schools find out the amount allocated for them, they submit a budget proposal. Some schools, such as Woodrow Wilson, use most of their money for the staff of certified teachers so that there are smaller groups of students with each teacher.
This week, Miller and Alice Steele-Robinson, the executive director for Academic Learning Center, visited Woodrow Wilson to observe its after-school program.
At Woodrow Wilson, there are 48 students in the program and eight teachers. Every week, students rotate to a new teacher and activity.
The students begin with 20 minutes after the school day for a snack and activity to unwind. Then, they work on homework and practice testing.
The participating students are ones who have usually been identified by a teacher as performing below grade level.
“You can see a difference (in performance) once they start coming,” said Katharine Winchell, a fourth grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson who participates in the Academic Learning Center.
As Miller and Steele-Robinson visited the school, there were small groups of students working with teachers to practice math and reading exercises and tests in a small group. Winchell said these smaller numbers allow the teachers to better observe how the students work, and they let the students learn from each other.
Focusing the program on elementary schools is especially effective, Winchell said.
“If they are turned away in elementary school, it’s going to make it harder for them,” Winchell said.
Steele-Robinson agrees, which is why the program targets elementary school children, focusing on strategies early in a child’s education.
“We strive for 80 percent improvement in reading, and we have received and exceeded that,” Steele-Robinson said. “We know if we can ge them to feel good about learning, we can create lifelong learners.”
For more information about school site tours, contact Academic Learning Center at 704-782-2301.
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.