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Partnership to expand afterschool programs statewide

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The S.C. Department of Education is partnering with the S.C. Afterschool Alliance to provide up to $14.5 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding to expand summer and afterschool programs to address pandemic-related learning loss in disadvantaged communities. 

The education department will provide up to $12 million to SCAA for the expansion of summer and after-school programs in districts and community organizations, with first-year funding expected to serve more than 4,000 students and 45 organizations, according to a news release. Additionally, $1 million will be provided by the Columbia Urban League to support parent programs, with another $1.5 million provided by afterschool programming nonprofit Wings for Kids.

“Local partnerships that leverage new and existing relationships between schools, families, and community organizations can provide the targeted support that students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic need to accelerate their learning,” S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in the release. “By working with the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance, we can grow proven programs and create new ones that will serve our students and their families now and into the future. We are excited about the opportunities this funding will create and the year-round learning that will result from this investment.”

Districts and organizations selected through the grants process will receive professional development and a tiered support system. Additionally, data collected by SCAA will be provided to the district for evaluation and sustainability purposes.

“There is no doubt the pandemic has impacted student learning and their families, but assisting students who have been affected the most requires extensive support from local and state partnerships,” said Zelda Waymer, president and CEO of the S.C. Afterschool Alliance. “This partnership with the South Carolina Department of Education, coupled with the 1,400 afterschool community-based, faith-based, and other local nonprofit programs in underserved areas of the state, is creating an ecosystem of support to help accelerate learning and expand hands-on opportunities for students to grow academically.”

The Equity and Excellence in Education program implemented by the Columbia Urban League will provide resources and support to parents and caregivers of students of color and/or economically disadvantaged students. The Columbia Urban League will also host regional conferences based on feedback from parents.

“The South Carolina Department of Education's support for afterschool programs is noteworthy because this support is vital in reducing and closing the historical achievement gap, along with the COVID-related learning loss gap,” JT McLawhorn, CEO of the Columbia Urban League, said. "These funds are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the academic performance of many disadvantaged and underserved children, which is essential in preparing them for livable income career opportunities and breaking the cycle of poverty for many.”

Wings for Kids, a Charleston-based program that provides disadvantaged youth with access to high-quality social and emotional learning experiences, will manage and implement a pilot project for five K–5 programs in Title One elementary schools serving 500 students in the most impoverished neighborhoods in South Carolina.

“We know that in order for students to learn, they must feel supported, accepted, and valued,” said Bridget Laird, CEO of Wings for Kids. “Intentionally teaching life skills prioritizes a student's well-being and provides lessons and practice in taking on challenges, learning from effort, building healthy relationships, and problem-solving. Wings for Kids is honored to bring our 25 years of experience to kids and schools across the state of South Carolina with the support of the SCDE.”

Reach Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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