Southeastern receives grant from Entergy for after school program
Monday, February 2, 2015
by: Tonya Lowentritt
PARTNERS IN EDUCATION - Southeastern Louisiana University's Department of Teaching and Learning has received a $22,500 Entergy Charitable Foundation grant to help fund Project LION (Learning in Our Neighborhood), a community partnership with the Tangipahoa Parish School System and the City of Hammond. Pictured from left are Betty Lee, secretary of the Hammond Youth Education Alliance Board of Directors, Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto, Board Member and Resource Director of Tangipahoa Academy Charter School Lisa Proffit-Rau, Wendy Stevens, assistant director of Southeastern Math, Science Upward Bound, College of Education Interim Dean Shirley Jacob, Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning and Grant Administrator Gerlinde Beckers, Interim Teaching and Learning Department Head Cindy Elliott, President of the Hammond Youth Education Alliance and Hammond City Councilman Lamar Marshall, and Chief Academic Officer of Tangipahoa Parish School System Theresa Hamilton.
HAMMOND - Southeastern Louisiana University's Department of Teaching and Learning has received a $22,500 Entergy Charitable Foundation grant to help fund Project LION (Learning in Our Neighborhood), a community partnership with the Tangipahoa Parish School System and the City of Hammond.
"The initial after-school project was developed by the non-profit group Hammond Youth Education Alliance to provide affordable after-school academic and enrichment activities for middle school students within their neighborhoods," said Gerlinde Beckers, assistant professor of Teaching and Learning and the grant administrator. "The project also provides real-world experience for Southeastern teacher candidates in diverse settings, a crucial component in making the students ready for the classroom."
Beckers added the cost of the after-school program is based on family income, and the fees per child range from $5 to $30 per week. The grant assistance will allow children unable to participate due to a lack the financial resources the opportunity to participate in the program.
Project LION is neighborhood-based and is housed at Hammond Westside Montessori School and St. Paul Lutheran Missionary Church, centrally located sites in the city.
"The Tangipahoa Parish School System is excited about this partnership," said Chief Academic Officer of the system Theresa Hamilton. "We see it as the beginning of a process of really uniting our community and strengthening the educational opportunities for students and families in Tangipahoa Parish."
According to Beckers, most middle-school participants in Project LION program come from low-income families with low educational attainment levels. Currently, 28 percent of Hammond's high school students drop out before completion and, by age 25, 23.5 percent have not earned a high school diploma. School attendance rates fall dramatically in grades 6-8 and suspension rates increase during high school.
"Many students lack positive role models and have scarce opportunities. The most successful students are those whose after-school time is occupied with enrichment activities that reinforce and extend classroom learning," Beckers said. "Children with unoccupied time are more at risk for engaging in unhealthy and/or delinquent behaviors, further widening what has been called the 'Opportunity Gap.'"
Beckers said in general middle-class families are able to invest in extracurricular opportunities. For families living in poverty, however, the cost of extracurricular activities is often prohibitive. As a result, children from these families tend to fall behind their middle-class counterparts, both adacemically and socially.
"Southeastern teacher candidates, certified Tangipahoa Parish classroom teachers, and community volunteers will be working with high-need, middle-school students within their neighborhoods," she said. "Project LION aims to address the Opportunity Gap by providing programming that focuses on school engagement, academic performance, and personal and social skills."
While the primary focus is to benefit the students, Beckers said the teacher candidates will also benefit from the field experience, making them real-world ready to address issues they will likely encounter as certified teachers.
"Entergy Charitable Foundation is pleased to lend support to Southeastern's College of Education and Human Development's Project Lion: Learning in our Neighborhood. The funds provided will allow students in the Hammond public schools' first ever after-school program to gain access and obtain valuable learning opportunities," said Entergy's Northshore Customer Service Representative Eunice Harris. "This project addresses Entergy Charitable Foundation's interest in making social investments that address literacy and lifting families out of the cycle of poverty. Therefore, Project LION plays a vital role in creating healthy families and healthy communities."