Thursday, July 21, 2011

Higher Achievement Launches New After-School and Summer Learning Program in Richmond with Ribbon Cutting at Boushall Middle School

Program to help close the achievement gap for middle school youth in at-risk communities

The future for Richmond’s youth is brighter this summer. Higher Achievement, in partnership with Richmond Public Schools and with the support of Altria, has launched its nationally-recognized academic program in Richmond with two new achievement centers for middle school students on Richmond’s Northside and Southside. Today, Higher Achievement, Richmond Public Schools, and Altria celebrated the launch with a ribbon cutting at Thomas C. Boushall Middle School.

The ceremony featured remarks from Superintendent Dr. Yvonne W. Brandon, Altria Vice President for Corporate Affairs Jennifer Hunter, Community Leader James E. Ukrop, and Higher Achievement Richmond Executive Director Eleanor R. Kootsey. The program also featured a performance by the 120 new Higher Achievement Richmond scholars, remarks from 6th grade scholar Jose Campos about his choice to join the program, and remarks from Higher Achievement alumna Carmen Payne about the impact the program has had on her success in life and in college at Virginia State University.

“Higher Achievement scholars, in 5th and 6th grade, are making huge investments in their future. They’ve willingly committed to spend 650 hours per year – in addition to 900 hours in school – learning math, literature, science, and social studies,” said Eleanor R. Kootsey, Executive Director of Higher Achievement Richmond. “This is a stunning commitment, and it pays off in spades. We consistently see better grades, higher test scores, and increased attendance from scholars in our program, and once they’ve completed it, 95% of Higher Achievement scholars advance to top academic high schools, and 93% go on to college.”
Higher Achievement’s launch in Richmond was announced at a press conference in October 2010, and since that time, Higher Achievement has enrolled over 120 students into the program and is recruiting 120 volunteer academic mentors from the Richmond community to support it. The ribbon cutting ceremony marked the official opening of Higher Achievement Richmond, and celebrated Higher Achievement’s partnership with Richmond’s public schools, leaders, and community partners.

“In Richmond, we have focused much of our reform on the middle school years,” said Superintendent Brandon. “As part of that initiative, we have partnered with Higher Achievement and Altria to open after-school achievement centers at Boushall and Henderson middle schools. These centers will provide our students with a safe haven for homework assistance and other academic enrichment opportunities.”

“Higher Achievement has a proven program that will help prepare Richmond’s middle school students for top high schools and colleges,” said Jennifer Hunter, vice president of Corporate Affairs, Altria Client Services. “It is important for the Richmond community—including businesses—to get to know the great work that Higher Achievement is beginning here and support its efforts through giving their time and their resources.”

Over the past five years, Richmond Public Schools has experienced a 14% decrease in middle school enrollment. Nearly 90% of students attending Northside and Southside middle schools qualify for free and reduced meals. 92% are minority student populations, and 36% of the families live below the poverty line. Higher Achievement’s rigorous after-school and summer academic program gives youth from at-risk communities their best chance to succeed in middle school, and will help close the middle school achievement gap for Richmond’s young people living in underserved, low income neighborhoods.

“We know that we can help Richmond’s young people succeed. We also know we can’t do it alone,” said Kootsey. “Every member of this community has a role to play in improving education and increasing opportunities for our children. Whether you’re a parent, neighbor, or business leader, you can help – mentor, donate, or spread the word. I truly believe that together, we can help close the achievement gap for Richmond’s youth.”

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