Even though officials with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier don't know yet exactly how much money they'll have to work with, they say they are excited to share $15 million in emergency education funding with other clubs around the state.
"It gives us an opportunity to serve more kids," said Steven Mickens, Chief Executive Officer for the local agency.
Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday announced he will make the money available through his Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund for the purpose of learning recovery and other critical needs of Georgia's youth who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kemp noted in his announcement that the Georgia Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs already has the framework in place to address academic, life skills and health needs of the students most in need.
These funds will be distributed across 34 Boys & Girls Clubs organizations, 141 sites and 62 counties in Georgia.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Georgia have done a remarkable job of serving the needs of youth across the Peach State," Kemp said in a media statement. “With this GEER funding, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Georgia will be able to further enhance student academic achievement by addressing educational gaps caused by the pandemic."
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, with locations in Hall, Habersham and Forsyth counties, is serving 559 kids this summer, according to Mickens. Pre-pandemic numbers for summer were typically around 700, and he thinks the local clubs could reach that number before the summer is over.
He said it's critical to help as many children as possible overcome the learning loss created by the pandemic.
"What [this money] is going to be able to do is help us to jump start our program and ensure that we are getting kids tutoring that's available five days a week to help with that learning recovery," Mickens said. "Then, we're going to implement certain programs to ensure that we address the holistic needs of kids."
Mickens said most children not only were hit hard academically, but they suffered socially and emotionally because they weren't able to be around friends on a regular basis.
The summer program at BCGC of Lanier began on Tuesday, June 1. While the kids are having fun and spending time together, Mickens said the focus is on academics. In fact, the overall goal of the governor's additional funding is to ensure 65% of youth below grade level return to grade level by the end of the program term; 35% of youth need to show an increase or progress toward grade level achievement. That means there's plenty of structure in place.
"From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., all of our kids go through tutoring with a certified school teacher in our program," said Mickens. "Also, one of our programs is a summer brain game. It's a hands-on program that's project-based, designed to help kids adapt to the school year...we're offering SMART Moves, which is a targeted program through Boys & Girls Clubs of America that stands for Skills Mastery and Resistance Training."
Mickens said the SMART Moves program helps kids learn life skills and includes lessons on everything from dating to peer pressure.
While a large part of the funding will go to summer programs, the funding period lasts through September 2022, so some money will go to afterschool programs during the 2021-2022 school year.
"If we can recover this learning loss for our kids, we're going to graduate kids at a higher rate and then they're going to be working in our communities," Mickens said. "The governor, I thought, did a tremendous job of understanding that concept."
Mickens said once a formula is finalized, the funds should come to local club in the next couple of weeks.
Follow this link to find out more about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier.