Durham Church Launches Cutting-Edge Program

By Isha Jackson
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Keeping hope alive is a goal of many churches in Northeast Central Durham. Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Angier Avenue is counting on making big changes now that it has received a half million dollar grant for its afterschool ministry.

Priscilla Ross, Orange Grove member, and Deloris Harris, math tutor, go over final details for the grand opening of the after school program. (Staff photo by Aaron Saunders)

The 21st Century Community Learning Center SMART Program, launched on October 4 will be a far cry from the traditional snack, playtime, and nap routine.

SMART stands for: science, math, advocacy, reading, and technology. The purpose of the program is to increase academic skills of students attending schools with high poverty levels. The program also aims to serve and provide significant expanded learning opportunities for students and their families.

The grant, from the N.C. Department of Instruction 21st Century Community Centers will run for four years. Funding will be $159 thousand the first two years. It will decrease 20 percent the third year and 40 percent, from the initial amount, the fourth year. Dr. Laurell Malone, Barbrah Coatney, and Dietrich Danner co-wrote the grant.

“The money is funded to get your program going, but you’ll have to find ways to sustain the program after the money is gone,” says Malone, associate professor at N.C. Central University’s School of Education. “We should be able to do that through partnerships and other grants or sponsorships provided by companies or businesses or even the church itself can continue to be a sponsor for the program.”

“It is a very competitive grant,” says Malone. “We were one of eight to receive the grant for this year.”

Each co-writer brought their unique expertise to the grant writing process. Malone made it clear that they are just church members with expertise.

Deloris Harris, math tutor, reviews teaching materials. (Staff photo by Aaron Saunders)

Orange Grove students in third to fifth grade are the target. The church has four targeted elementary schools: Bethesda Elementary, Burton Elementary, Spring Valley Elementary, and Y.E. Smith Elementary.

They have also invited R.N. Harris and Fayetteville Street Lab Elementary Schools to participate. Though these are the targeted schools, the program is open to students from public and private schools, home schools, or charter schools in the Durham area.

The program can serve up to 80 students who have not met state proficiency standards, have scored at levels I and II on the state assessment, and currently attend low-performing schools.

“Part of what we do and will keep doing as professors is to lend our expertise to the community,” says Malone. “NCCU’s Chancellor Charlie Nelms said we should not have any school in a two mile radius that are failing or low performing — there really is a need for a program like the SMART Program.”

Teachers in the program must be licensed. The program will include two science, two math, two literacy/reading teachers and one technology teacher. Four teachers have already been hired.
“My hope is that as I’m working with the principals at the schools that have been targeted that we could get at least one teacher from each school,” says Malone. “That will help us be a liaison between the church and the school, so we can get the data that the students have like the end of grade test scores and report cards, and so we can continue to be working on our students’ area of weakness.”

The SMART Program will employ two existing educational models: Second Step and Education City.

According to the Education City website, this program is inspiring, engaging and award-winning. Education City provides fun games for children aged between 3 and 12 years old, as well as for older children in special education. The website’s resources, activities and games cover the core subjects of language arts, math, science and math in Spanish.

According to the website, the SECOND STEP program for Grades 1–5 can help students develop strong bonds to school, solve problems without anger, and treat others with compassion. These social skills support academics and form the foundation for happy, healthy kids who succeed.

The SMART Program is looking for volunteers for the advocacy element of the SMART program. Advocacy is the new term for mentoring. The program needs volunteers willing to be on a 1 to 4 ratio with the kids. The job of the advocate is to spend at least one day with the kids, call them, and check on them.

“Kids respond to someone who asks how their test went. The main thing is to build a relationship with that student and for the student to know someone has high expectations for them,” says Malone.

“Sometimes kids don’t want to tell their parents they got a bad grade, sometimes they had a bad day and just want to cry. An advocate will work with their 4 students and be there as a supporter, a listener, and encourager.” The SMART Program asks the advocate to commit at least one year.

“Kids don’t do well with change,” says Malone. “Honestly, they will steal your heart and you’ll probably want to follow them to college.”

Volunteering with the program has been listed with the community service department at NCCU, allowing students there to complete their university-mandated community service hours.

The program will run 25 weeks throughout the school year and the calendar is aligned with the Durham Public School System calendar.

The SMART Program provides transportation in cooperation with the DPS buses. Students will meet Monday through Thursday, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“The whole idea is to help them meet and succeed the NC education standards,” says Malone. “Not a lot of schools have the resources for an after school program. I love that Orange Grove Missionary Baptist will be a community leaning center for the kids in this area.”

To learn more or find out how to become a volunteer call 919.685.5676 or visit Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church at 505 East End Avenue off Angier Avenue.

Weblinks: www.OGMBC.org

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