Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. Or, it isn’t what I remember it to be.
I recently discovered this as I struggle to keep up with my eldest son’s social calendar, school fundraisers, class projects, extracurricular activities and homework. He’s five years old, a kindergartner. An 8-hour school day followed by homework!?
The kindergarten I remember was comprised of circle time, free play time and naps. The school day was four hours long.
I have no doubt the reading and writing skills my son is honing early in his education will help him succeed well into high school and beyond. My wife and I are very pleased with his teacher and the public school he is attending.
But Kindergarten has been an eye-opener on just how involved a parent must be in their child’s education. All too often, students do not have the full support of their family. Educators believe the lack of parental support is a key reason why nearly 20% of all North Carolina students don’t graduate from high school.
When parents are struggling to provide basic needs for their children, like food and shelter, it’s easy to understand why they may not be focused on what’s happening at their child’s school. Language barriers also isolate parents from their school communities.
Hands On Charlotte, along with several partner agencies, is working to eliminate these hurdles and engage more parents in their child’s education through a new initiative, the Coalition for Albemarle Road Elementary School (CARES). The coalition opens the school on two evenings each month and invites adults and children to come to the school for a free dinner. The meal is followed by educational clubs for students and life-skills classes for parents, including Healthy Living, English as a Second Language (ESL) and CMS Parent University. CARES also provides childcare for younger children.
CARES borrowed the Family Night concept from a similar program at McClintock Middle School. Since its inception in 2007, McClintock Partners in Education (McPIE) has seen a decrease in student absenteeism and higher scores on standardized tests. Like CARES, the efforts at McClintock are a collaborative effort involving a church, the neighborhood and the school’s faculty and staff.
Educational achievement is only one measurement of success for Family Night. Kamille Pickens, one of three AmeriCorps VISTA members who help Hands On Charlotte manage the CARES initiative, said instructors have given parents some potentially life-changing advice: a mother who was able to get a scholarship from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to pay for a mammogram after finding a lump in her breast, and several ESL families who learned their rights when stopped by law enforcement, clearing up some common misconceptions.
Through these relationships and by establishing networks of support, volunteers can help children succeed in school and improve the lives of their families. It’s an investment of time and money. Grants from the City of Charlotte, the Teen Impact Fund and the Annie E. Casey Foundation help cover expenses, including meals, program materials and childcare providers. Donations from individuals and partner agencies will be crucial for sustaining the Family Night program.
Opportunities abound for volunteers who wish to bolster the work of Charlotte’s educators in other ways. Hands On Charlotte’s project calendar includes several tutoring and mentoring events every month, through partnerships with Central Piedmont Community College and several Mecklenburg non-profit agencies.
When our community shares its talent, time and resources, every child has the ability to succeed in school and establish a foundation for a successful life.
Board Member and Communications Volunteer
Hands On Charlottte