ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced a $2 million investment in support services for students and families to help close the achievement gap. The funding will support HoCo STRIVES (Strategies to Reach an Inclusive Vision and Equitable Solutions), which is an umbrella for the many initiatives in place to address the achievement gap, and now to address learning loss brought on by the pandemic. Photos of the event can be found here.
The past two years have been especially challenging for our students, families, and educators. The pandemic exacerbated already existing disparities in student learning levels. Our $2 million investment is a 167% increase in funding compared to last fiscal year. This vital initiative includes afterschool and summer programming, mental health services, and free meals. The investments we are making now will have a positive impact on our children and families, especially those who have less opportunities and ensure they have the resources to be successful.
This year’s investment builds on County Executive Ball’s efforts to support learning loss over summer break. In his first and second budget he included $400,000 to support HoCo STRIVES. In anticipation of learning loss from the pandemic, for Fiscal Year 2022, Ball included $750,000 towards HoCo STRIVES funding.
The largest portion of funding for this year, $720,000, will support social and emotional learning programs including:
- Summer Scholars
In its 5th year, the Summer Scholars program prepares middle school students for high school with academic subjects and social emotional skills needed to graduate and prepare for college and career. The program is done in partnership with the Office of the Local Children’s Board (LCB), Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) and the nonprofit Leaders for Tomorrow Youth Center (LTYC).
- Community Based Summer Learning
This initiative expands Summer Scholars into the community for elementary school students for the first time. The LCB will be piloting two community-based Summer Scholars camps in Howard Crossing and Long Reach. The programs will operate for a full day offering breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.
- Afterschool Scholars
Offered at Deep Run Elementary School to provide after-school supports to communities where pre-existing gaps were exacerbated by the pandemic. Also provides support for families with free English language tutoring.
- Family Support Center
This new center, which will be operated by the Department of Community Resources and Services, will expand human services with a specific focus on the youngest families (prenatal to age 3).
- Community Partner Gants
The LCB invested in 6 non-profit organizations this year that provided a range of services including afterschool programming, summer programming and family engagement.
Additional STRIVES funding will go towards
- Free meals for students
- Workforce development for youth
- Mental health services for under and uninsured families
- Supporting community partnerships and local leadership teams
"I am grateful to the County Executive and many community partners for prioritizing summer programming for our students and for all the extraordinary staff who are teaching and supporting students," said Dr. Michael J. Martirano, Superintendent of Schools. "Summer programs provide opportunities for students to recover instruction, maintain progress on their learning goals, receive academic supports, develop social emotional learning strategies, and accelerate their learning."
“The County Executive’s increased investment in HoCo STRIVES comes at a critical time, as we continue to manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our most vulnerable children, youth and families and support their road to recovery,” said Jackie Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. “These FY23 funds will enable our Office of the Local Children’s Board to expand their investment in social and emotional learning, youth mental health, community capacity building, workforce readiness and youth employment and food access.”
“The Summer Scholars program of Howard County was not just a summer program, but a live saver to a single mom and her preteen son during COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Erika Tillery, a parent of a HoCo STRIVES student. “My son’s grades improved 60% more than if he were just to do virtual learning without educators to assist him in person. If it were not for the Summer Scholars, the Local Children’s Board and their enormous patience, generosity, and compassion, I would have had to leave my job to focus on my son’s education and risk being unemployed during the pandemic.”
“This summer we are working with over 100 students, to give experiences and opportunities in music, dance, culinary arts, fashion and cosmetology and so much more,” Said Dana Carr, Executive Director of the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center which helps support Summer Scholars programming. “It is our hope with this program, we can help to restore, rebuild and renew young people’s joy and excitement during the summer while addressing the summer and COVID-19 slides. We will be providing them with meaningful experiences so they can express, collaborate and create.”
“We’ve been partners in this for the last six years, and we started with only 60 students, and we wanted to help them excel in grades 7th through 9th,” said Regina Coleman, Oakland Mills Middle School Principal. “It has grown into this amazing program; the students ask to come. It helps to close the gap – it helps with the social emotional piece.”
“This is my third year participating in the summer youth program, I learned so much about how to get a job and maintain a job,” said Jerena Dorbor, a Summer Scholars student and Summer Youth Program participant. “Last year I had the opportunity to also work for the Summer Scholars program, I acquired good communication skills, patience, organizational skills, and problem-solving skills. Through the experience I gained through the summer youth program I now have my own hair business and I’m certified in CPR and first aid. This program has been a blessing and helped me to continue to grow.”
“Being in this program opened many doors for me. I have gained lots of skills – working in a team environment, how to complete projects with a team and lead a team, and what if expected of me in a professional environment,” said Malachi Stevens, a Summer Scholars student and Summer Youth Program participant. “What I have learned will surely translate to my professional career after I complete my degree.”