How Youngstown is Nurturing Success After 6
Dez'Siray is an honest kindergarten student in Youngstown, Ohio. She would tell you when she misbehaved.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dez’Siray is among the 63% of children living in circumstances of significant disadvantage. Nearly 35% of Youngstown’s population is living at or below the poverty line. These statistics are common in many U.S. communities.
However, in Youngstown, the United Way is helping students like Dez’Siray with an integrated community effort called Success After 6.
Since joining Success After 6, Dez’Siray’s reading assessment grew by 179 points. She has shown significant growth in her reading skills, and has also shown great strides in her behavior.
Now, she proudly tells you when she did well in school and during her after school program.
The Success After 6 program (referring to six years of age) resulted from years of research. It focuses on children’s need for a safe place and positive environment to succeed. It brings together school and community resources focused on academics, health and social services, as well as social and emotional development.
The “community school” concept encourages coordination of academic, social, and health services through partnerships between public schools, local educational agencies, and community based organizations.
This “one-stop-shop” for families is key to the program’s success. The Youngstown Community School (YCS) includes a food pantry and provides after school and summer school opportunities, field trips, and dental and vision screenings - all under the theme of “Bringing It All Together!”
Brenda Scott, or “Miss Brenda” as she is affectionately known to the YCS students, is the Success After 6 coordinator. She oversees tutors, health screenings, and volunteers. She also runs a three-hour, after school program, which includes academic support, fitness, the arts, and a warm meal.
Miss Brenda asks parents to “tell it to me straight!” Their feedback and engagement has helped set high expectations for the students.
Together the parents and administration created the Success After 6 program goals:
- Improve grade level reading
- Increase parent and/or guardian involvement
- Focus on attendance and decrease tardiness
- Provide after school food and transportation
Support of the Success After 6 program is evident. Parents and teachers report an improvement in their children’s behavior. Students are completing their daily homework and have a 95% school attendance rate.
Programs like Success After 6 rely heavily on community volunteers. In Youngstown, students from Youngstown State University’s honors program are regular classroom volunteers.
In January, eleven State Farm Agents from Youngstown volunteered to create the “State Farm® Reading Oasis.” There, students can sit comfortably on colorful beanbag chairs and select and read age-appropriate books. State Farm Agent Jan Cefalu helped spearhead this effort.
“As agents, we feel it is important to give back to the community. The State Farm culture is to be a ‘good neighbor’,“ said Jan. "The youth of the community are our future. If we can play a small part in their development, as role models and leaders, we are happy to do so.”