Bridging the Gap: Power Scholars Summer Academy

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By West Cook YMCA

This summer, the West Cook YMCA is partnering with school districts 90 and 91 to help stop the learning loss that can occur over the summer break from elementary school. As a part of Y-USA's Achievement Gap Program, the program is open to rising grade one through five students from Forest Park and River Forest and is offered at no cost to families through the support of local school districts 90 and 91, West Cook YMCA, YMCA of the USA Strategic Initiative Fund, John G. Symons Trust Charities, and an anonymous donor.

West Cook YMCA Youth Development Director, Elizabeth Lopez, is excited to be taking part in the program which showed measurable results last year in other communities. "Last summer, over 7,400 students participated and the children experienced gains the equivalent of two months in math and one and a half months in reading."

The Forest Park and River Forest school districts identified students who would qualify for the program, and the first summer will see up to 120 students taking part at Field Stevenson School. Teachers from local districts will be supplemented with enrichment guidance from West Cook YMCA.

Each six and a half hour day will have academic and community building activities. In the morning, students will focus on math and reading. After lunch, there will be an enrichment focus with physical activity, art, music, drama and STEM activities. Students' horizons will extend outside the four walls of the school with once a week field trips and special guest speakers.

Data collected from 2017 Power Scholars programming points to a successful summer. 91% of teachers reported that their scholars increased their self-confidence over the summer, and 90% of parents reported that their children were more confident in their abilities. Parents also rated highly their children's' improved ability to meet challenges.

Lopez says of these results, "It's not just academics. It's not just social-emotional learning. It's the whole package."

Power Scholars is free for participating students and interested students can sign up for extended care programming via the West Cook YMCA's Camp Magellan for a weekly fee. Scholarships are also available for the extended portion of camp which runs from the time of Power Scholars Academy dismissal until 7p.m., with bus service available between the two programs.

Lopez says of the Power Scholars program, "We're really excited to work with the Forest Park and River Forest school districts. I think we're the only program to work with two different districts. The diversity factor is important here as the kids build new relationships and meet new people. We're looking forward to an impactful summer."

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