By Riyah Exum
Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church is much more than just a spiritual building. Almost four years ago Orange Grove Church received a grant to start a learning program to help young children with their math, reading and other academic skills.
The SMART program is a learning program at Orange Grove that meets four days a week to provide students of the Durham public school system, but not limited to, with three additional hours of instructional time. The program has a cap of 80 students and currently has 69 students enrolled.
The SMART program promotes expanded learning opportunities for students and their families. The program is now on its last grant year at Orange Grove and the question still remains, will the church keep the program even without the financial boost the grant has given them.
According to Laurell Malone, Program Director, the SMART program will not be returning next year, if the 21st Century Community Learning Center does not write another grant or if the church does not raise the funds themselves.
“It’s a great program and we really appreciate the 21st Century Community Learning Center’s grant that gave us this opportunity to serve these kids and to have so much academic success,” said Malone.
The SMART program is something that the children who attend value. It is not just another activity their parents have involved them in. The students range from third to fifth grade and attend the program Monday through Thursday.
Many of the students enjoy coming to the afterschool program more than they enjoy going to actual school.
“We don’t come here on Friday’s but I wish we could I like coming here better,” said Karen Rangel, fourth grader, 10 years old.
The church can look at other avenues of support from fundraising, to applying for other grants. Malone suggests that the program may be able to function on the resources they already have from the previous grant funds.
“Even if they don’t support as many kids, we have a routine now and a good reputation,” said Malone.
The SMART program strives for excellence by increasing the academic performance in reading, language, science, and math integration for students enrolled by five percentage points each academic year.
The program will not be returning to Orange Grove for the 2014 academic year but the academic success of each student involved will remain with them forever and allow them to further reach all of their desired goals.