ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Ed Isakson/Alpharetta Family YMCA teamed up Jan. 6 to give back to local students.
A $20,000 donation was given from United Way to the YMCA to help fund their after-school and summer programs at local schools including Hembree Springs and Manning Oaks elementary schools.
Scott Doll, YMCA executive director, said the donation shows the community is better when it works collaboratively to improve academic achievement for all students, but particularly those who need extra assistance.
“One of our taglines at the Y is we believe that every child needs to be at a point where they are prepared to read to learn by the third grade,” Doll said. “That early education is so important. Particularly these summer programs that provide a lower teacher-student ratio that enable those students to really hone in on those fundamentals that they’re missing. The work we’ve done in the past has shown we’ve been able to bring the majority of those students up to grade level versus the trajectory that they would typically follow, where they would fall further and further behind.”
The Y serves over 2,000 elementary students in North Fulton every day with its after-school program, Doll said. Laurie Woodruff, principal at Hembree Springs, said they see firsthand the benefits the after-school program has for students.
“It’s about the whole child, not just the academics,” Woodruff said. “It’s about bridging that gap for them so there is not summer regression with learning. When they come back to school they’ll be more confident and well-rounded because of these types of experiences. They may not have the confidence to speak out in class or they may be in a remedial situation in school on a regular basis, in which programs like this will help them to break out of that cycle and be more successful and confident students when they return in the fall.”
Every year, United Way’s North Fulton advisory board decides which group they are going to donate to. This check from United Way of Greater Atlanta is an investment in the Y’s summer program which in turn is invested in the school program. DePriest Waddy, regional director and community engagement for United Way, said it’s a collective impact.
“When you look at North Fulton, you look at a level of affluence that you feel is cast equally across every family and child,” Waddy said. “But as we know, that’s not necessarily the case. We are taking this opportunity to leave no child behind and to make sure those who are the least served get some bridges so they can be competitive with the mainstream.”
The way we are going to break the cycle of poverty is by educating our children, said Morris Cowan, county engagement director for North Fulton for United Way.
“The way we are going to prepare for the workforce of the 21st century is by educating our children,” Cowan said. “We need to have a group of young people come through their educational opportunities. Some will go to college, some may not, but all need to be prepared to go out into the world and prosper, each according to their ability. Being able to achieve that is going to dramatically impact the sustainability of a high quality of life for the community and all citizens. Education is fundamental to everything we do. The kids are encouraged by the community and parents and faculty and organizations like the Y. The whole community comes around and that’s why so many of our kids, even some on the margins, aspire to and work to achieve things they can. That’s what we’re about. Helping people achieve all they can.”