SOURCE: BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)

November 12, 2008 08:00 ET

Skillman Foundation Launches BELL Afterschool Program in Detroit

Donation of $100,000 Follows Outstanding Results of BELL's Summer Tutoring and Mentoring Program in Detroit

DETROIT, MI--(Marketwire - November 12, 2008) - BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) received a $100,000 grant from the Skillman Foundation to launch the BELL Afterschool program to Detroit. BELL, which provides summer and afterschool tutoring and mentoring to 12,000 students in five cities, first launched a pilot BELL Summer program in Detroit in 2008. The program's outstanding results led to the Skillman Foundation's decision to fund the city's first BELL Afterschool program, which will serve 100 children at the Harding Elementary School in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit.

The Skillman Foundation's grant to launch the BELL Afterschool program at the Harding Elementary School will enable BELL to pursue a vision of delivering high-quality tutoring and mentoring to thousands of children throughout the city. The pilot site will demonstrate that the BELL Afterschool program's impact can be replicated in Detroit, and provide a model partnership for public schools seeking to strengthen student outcomes. In the future, BELL and its public school partners will identify and secure public funding to expand and sustain the BELL Afterschool program in the community, resulting in a long-term impact made possible by the foundation's commitment to children and vision for change.

"We are grateful to the Skillman Foundation for their support in launching the BELL Afterschool program in Brightmoor, and we look forward to partnering with Harding Elementary School," said BELL Regional Director, Dawn Smith. "Following the positive results of the BELL Summer program in Detroit, we believe the Afterschool program will have a very positive impact on scholars' academic performance and will help them strive to reach their full potential."

The BELL Afterschool program at the Harding Elementary follows the successful launch of BELL Summer in Detroit. In July and August of 2008, BELL partnered with National Heritage Academies to provide its BELL Summer program to 750 children in grades K-6 at four school sites in Detroit. The BELL Summer program helps students, called "scholars" in BELL programs, to accelerate their learning, catch up to their peers and succeed in school. BELL scholars attended the program for eight hours per day, five days per week, over a period of six weeks, where they received tutoring in reading and math, as well as a wide variety of enrichment activities such as Japanese, technology, art, public speaking and athletics. The BELL Summer program helps scholars continue to progress academically and personally, rather than backslide in their educational progress as many students do in the summer months.

As a result of their participation in the BELL Summer program, scholars gained an average of seven months grade-equivalent skills in literacy, eight months of skills in mathematics, and displayed significant gains in social skills development. When compared to an average "summer learning loss" of three months for those students not enrolled in educational summer programs, BELL scholars returned to school in September with a net gain of nearly one-year of academic skills compared to their peers.

BELL also surveyed teachers and parents for their impressions of student progress in terms of self efficacy and social/communications skills. Teachers (94%) and parents (90%) both reported that scholars had improved self-confidence. Scholars showed an improved attitude towards school, according to 93% of parents. In addition, 91% of parents said that BELL made their child more excited to learn, while 93% believed that BELL improved their child's attitude towards learning.

Parent engagement in school is a critical success factor for every school community. BELL hosts regular events throughout the six-week program to provide opportunities for parents to engage in the education of their children. More than two-thirds of parents (71%) attended one or more BELL event, with 20% engaging with their children at three or more events. As a result of the BELL Summer program, 87% of parents reported that they felt more engaged in their child's education.

One of the most important aspects about BELL is that scholars and parents enjoy the experience and embrace the program for years to come. Following the six-week program, 97% of parents said that their child enjoyed BELL, and the same percentage expressed their satisfaction with the program. In addition, 95% of parents indicated they would sign-up their child for BELL again (4% were undecided) and 97% would recommend BELL to other parents.

The BELL Afterschool program at Harding Elementary School, funded by the Skillman Foundation, will operate from October through April, three days per week for 2.25 hours per day. Scholars begin each afternoon with healthy snacks and community time, which gives them opportunities to enhance their social skills through interactions with peers and tutors. Scholars then focus one hour on literacy instruction and 45 minutes on math instruction. At the end of the day, scholars participate in structured enrichment activities such as technology, art, music, drama, dance and physical education. On "Mentor Days," scholars listen to successful community members as they share inspirational stories about potential career paths, cultural heritage and community service.

About the Skillman Foundation

Created in 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy whose chief aim is to help develop good schools and good neighborhoods for children. Though grants are made throughout metropolitan Detroit, most grants are directed at six Detroit neighborhoods -- Southwest Detroit (Vernor and Chadsey/Condon), Brightmoor, Osborn, Cody/Rouge and the Northend -- and toward innovative and successful schools throughout the city of Detroit.

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 under-resourced, urban communities. BELL serves more than 12,000 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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