SOURCE: BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)

June 26, 2008 17:08 ET

BELL Announces Expansion to Springfield, Mass., With New Summer Program

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - June 26, 2008) - BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) today announced its expansion into Springfield, Mass., beginning June 30, with the BELL Summer program. BELL currently serves more than 11,000 students in summer and afterschool programs in Baltimore, Boston and New York, with recent expansion to Detroit. The second largest city in Massachusetts, Springfield is one of the areas of greatest need in the Commonwealth, with 19% of families living below the poverty line. Half of the Springfield School District's students are Latino and 26% are African American. The summer program, which is made possible by funding from Springfield Public Schools, with additional local support from the Yawkey Foundation, Mass Mutual and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, will serve 800 students in grades 2, 3, 4 and 5, as well as students in grade 8.

BELL was founded in 1992 by a group of Black and Latino Harvard Law students. Its K-6 students, who BELL calls "scholars," receive tutoring in reading, writing and math, as well as enrichment activities to help scholars develop higher self-esteem. BELL's summer school program helps scholars continue to progress academically and personally during the summer months, rather than backslide in their educational progress as many students do in the summer months. In addition, as a Supplemental Educational Service (SES) provider, BELL provides afterschool tutoring to eligible students under Federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Through private and public funding, BELL's programs offer more extensive, more robust and more effective tutoring and enrichment services than any other provider.

"When you consider that most students lose the equivalent of three months of education during the summer months, a summer program such as this becomes critical to students' educational progress," said Earl Martin Phalen, co-founder and CEO of BELL. "The BELL Summer program helps our young scholars to gain, on average, four to six months worth of education during a six week period. The results are amazing and have a profound impact on scholars' future academic success."

The BELL Summer program has received national acclaim and was recognized by Senator Barack Obama in the STEP-UP Act of 2005. The legislation cites BELL Summer as a program proven to remedy, reinforce and accelerate learning while helping to close the achievement gap in education.

"The BELL Summer program fulfills a promise to the Springfield community to expand summer learning experiences for our students," said Dr. Joseph Burke, Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools. "It also provides an excellent vehicle for delivering the required summer school learning mandated by the Springfield School Committee."

BELL Summer, which runs for six weeks beginning June 30, will provide literacy and math lessons (linked to state and national standards), as well as enrichment courses Monday through Thursday. Each Friday, scholars will participate in experiential learning in the form of guest speakers, field trips and community services projects. BELL conducts ongoing assessment of student progress, and reviews the data with the school principal.

The BELL Summer program will be offered in seven elementary schools and four high schools: Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School; Springfield High School of Science and Technology; High School of Commerce; Springfield Central High School; Indian Orchard Elementary; Frederick Harris School; Sumner Avenue School; Milton Bradley School; Rebecca Johnson School; German Gerena Community School; and Edward P. Boland School.

The students in Grades 5 and 8 who have been invited to participate in the BELL Summer program are those who are at-risk of not being promoted to middle and high schools, respectively. By successfully completing BELL summer, these students will have the opportunity to close the achievement gap and move on to the next level. Students from all Springfield Public Schools' elementary and middle schools in grades 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8 are invited to participate, based on an assessment of their academic need. Priority placement is being given to the students in grades 5 and 8 who are at risk of being held back with the remainder of the slots going to students in grades 2, 3, and 4 who are at the greatest academic need. The program is free of charge to all.

The Springfield program will be led by Deputy Director Ameenah Reed. Most recently BELL's dual Site Manager for afterschool programs in an elementary school and middle school in New York City, Reed brings more than 10 years of experience working in the New York City Department of Education in non-profit afterschool programs, and nearly three years of experience with BELL. Prior to her leadership role in BELL's New York City program, Reed served as a Summer Program Leader in Baltimore and Boston. Following her successful efforts to help grow the summer and afterschool programs in Baltimore, Boston and New York City, Reed will oversee the Springfield program, which includes 11 summer sites; 7 elementary and 4 high schools (grade 8 transitioning).

"As a parent, an educator and a community member, I know the critical role that summer education can play in helping create positive transformation in our community," said Reed. "I am zealous about my commitment to serve youth, and look forward to leading BELL's efforts in Springfield."

About BELL

BELL, founded in 1992, is one of the nation's leading providers of quality afterschool and summer educational programs. It is committed to enhancing the educational achievements, self-esteem and life opportunities of children living in low-income, urban communities. BELL serves more than 11,000 children annually in schools throughout Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, New York City and Springfield, Mass. Please visit www.bellnational.org for more information.

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