New Program Sponsored by Heritage Quilters Takes Aim at Summer Learning Loss

Heritage Quilters summer bus tour

When the school doors close, and summer vacation ensues, millions of students will experience a phenomenon known as ‘summer learning loss.’ (for more about summer learning loss, see Wikipedia). If students lack educational reinforcement during the summer months, they may very well lose ground academically. In fact, research by the RAND Corporation finds that when students report to school in the fall, they perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring (RAND, 2011). This problem is particularly prevalent among low-income students. Whereas students from more affluent families typically access a wide variety of artistic, educational, and recreational resources to cultivate their knowledge and skills during the summer, children from low-income families often lack access to similar types of experiences.

These setbacks, that disproportionately affect disadvantaged students, may hinder later educational success, and exacerbate the educational achievement gap. In fact, researchers from Johns Hopkins University attribute as much as two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading to unequal summer learning opportunities in the elementary school years. By the end of fifth grade, disadvantaged children are nearly three grade equivalents behind their more affluent peers in reading (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007). According to the National Summer Learning Association:

More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college

The Heritage Quilters of North Carolina decided that the first grant they were going to award would go toward fighting the effects of summer brain drain. “We collectively discussed what kids in our community need. We talked primarily about exposure. Our kids aren’t exposed enough. They don’t get a chance to go to Maine, or California, or London. They don’t even have a chance to go to Charlotte often times, whereas kids from more affluent families, they can participate in summer programs, or learn a foreign language, or travel. So, the Heritage Quilters decided we would fund a field trip,” says Jereann King Johnson, the original organizer of the Heritage Quilters, a network of quilters from Halifax, Vance and Warren Counties.

Until this year, the Heritage Quilters had been accustomed to scholarship giving. In fact, the organization has awarded five scholarships in the past, but felt it was time for a change. Johnson describes the significance of the transition to grant giving:

Scholarship giving was familiar. You know, you start where you are. Churches give scholarships, but churches often don’t give grants. But we knew that we could do more than support one individual. We had to think about what it means to give strategically, and we had to think about the specific ways that we were going to address youth and educational development, as that topic is so broad. So we started with scholarships, then progressed to thinking strategically about issues in our community, and then we acted.

The Heritage Quilters worked in collaboration with The Warren County Training School/North Warren High School Alumni and Friends Association (WCTS/NWHS Alumni Association) to develop a field trip that would embrace the theme of Healthy Families, Healthy Communities.

The program, which included a field trip to the YMCA of Henderson, NC, taught students about healthy living, provided recreational opportunities, and encouraged students to learn about various digital tools. In fact, the students will compile pictures from the program, and create a digital photo book with commentary. Johnson states:

To many this may not sound like a big deal, but to these kids, it was a big deal. Also, the coordinator of the program stated that the field trip was extremely important, and suggested that we continue to work with WCTS/NWHS in the future.

In the coming months, the Heritage Quilters will be gathering additional feedback to evaluate the success of the program. The members of the group look forward to subsequent opportunities to collaborate with WCTS/NWHS.

To learn more about the Heritage Quilters, contact Jereann King Johnson at jereking@ncol.net

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