As the executive director of the Sandy Springs Education Force, I have the privilege of working with each of our 11 schools. Since 2009, the force has directly supported the men and women who make an impact in our classrooms. We make this commitment because it sees the incredible difference it makes in our community.
In just four years, by partnering with our teachers, school leaders and organizations like Junior Achievement, the Community Assistance Center and Georgia State University, we are assisting economically disadvantaged students by offering them the tools to improve their academic performance and, in the process, strengthening each of the public schools in our city.
More specifically, we support efforts like the After-School All-Stars program at Sandy Springs Charter Middle School. In the program 96 percent of the participants are low-income students. Studies show that given the right support, a comprehensive after-school program makes a significant impact — and the All-Stars program has shown proven success.
Remarkable results were found when comparing achievement scores of low-income students who did not attend the program with those who did. Scores from All-Star students increased 10 percent in English language arts, 3.8 percent in math, 5 percent in reading and 19.6 percent in science.
Results from those who attended the program for two years showed even greater improvement. In English language arts, All-Star participants improved 15.4 percent more than nonparticipants, 12.7 percent higher in math, 21.5 percent in reading and 19.6 percent in science. With results like these, it is clear that, with support from the force, the All-Star program has impacted the academic potential of more than 200 at-risk students.
In addition to after school programs, the force has produced three annual STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — events with program partners including NASA, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia First Robotics and Georgia Tech Research Institute, impacting more than 2,000 students each year.
Working with our two city high schools, we have guided 200 low-income students to apply and go to college or vocational programs, and throughout the school year we directly assist our teachers. By offsetting personal expenses for school supplies for as many as 1,000 economically disadvantaged children, we operate a teachers closet with the CAC.
We do all of this and much more, because we believe teachers and school leaders deserve our support and by assisting their efforts, the entire Sandy Springs community benefits. At a time when so many families are rushing around getting ready to begin the new school year, it is my hope many of you in our generous community will join the force.
Join it in appreciating and recognizing the people — our teachers and our school leaders — who make an impact every day. Strong public schools promote a strong community and our public schools need the support of the entire community to help support a 21st-century work force and economic development for our wonderful city. You can volunteer your time with the force or make a financial donation to support our schools by visiting our website, www.sandyspringseducationforce.org.
Additionally, every weekend in August, force volunteers will have a presence at the Egg Harbor Café in Sandy Springs as well as at the Sandy Springs Farmers Market Aug. 10. We will be collecting school supplies to fill the shelves of the teacher supply closet as well as donations to support force programs.
Irene Schweiger is executive director of the Sandy Springs Education Force, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the city’s public schools. She can be reached at director@SandySpringsEducationforce.org.