Afterschool Program Expansion Helps More Students Achieve

There’s excitement in the halls of Partnership Academy, a PPL-authorized charter school, long after class lets out for the day.  In a moment of inspiration, an afterschool program teacher closes a book and brings the student he was tutoring into the long hallway.

“Look,” he says with excitement. “The book said that a spider can jump as far as 40 times his body length. That would be like you jumping the entire length of the hall. Isn’t that incredible?”

The student nods in stunned agreement, as taken aback by his teacher’s enthusiasm as he is by the jumping prowess of arachnids. They return to their classroom, which is filled with other students putting in extra time to achieve academic success at PPL’s afterschool program.

PPL has partnered with Partnership Academy to provide afterschool programs since the school’s inception in 2002. The program offers students literacy tutoring and help with homework. A sizeable expansion in the afterschool programs this year, funded in part by a Reading by Third Grade grant from the Greater Twin Cities United Way, is helping more of the school’s students who are performing under grade level get the extra academic help they need.

“The afterschool program only had 50-60 kids in it, but the need was much greater than that,” said Partnership Academy principal Lisa Hendricks. “With some new grants and funding, we are able to expand.” The program now serves over 100 students from first to fifth grade.

“The opportunity to work with caring adults on a daily basis gives the students joy and confidence to do their school work,” notes second grade teacher Allison Pint. “Students are always so excited to go to the afterschool program.”

Students approach the work of the afterschool program with childhood enthusiasm. Damaris, a second grader, approaches a new volunteer with a book, proclaiming, “I can read it all by myself!” Then she begins to read out loud to him.

“There’s a lot of energy and personality with this group,” Aleisha, a volunteer from Normandale College, observes. “The students are really interested in their books, and in having someone helping them read.”

The combined efforts of teachers, parents, and the afterschool program has helped students achieve academic gains that are being noticed. Partnership Academy was recently listed as a ‘Beat the Odds School’ by the Star Tribune in reference to their recent test scores.

“The afterschool program has been instrumental in the success of our students,” Pint adds. “Reading levels and test scores have increased because of the tutoring in the afterschool program.”

“It’s great to be a resource for struggling kids,” PPL Youth Program Manager Shannon Siegfried Floe said, “and to partner with teachers in their efforts to help them.”

The goals of the program don’t seem to be lost on Henry, a fourth grader. “This is my favorite book, but he,” referring to a teacher walking by, “doesn’t let me read it anymore.”

“That’s because you have it memorized,” the teacher replies, “and you need a new challenge.” Henry looks at him, perhaps aware of what’s at stake, and smiles.

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