Children graduating

Brenau alumni help elementary-aged students during the RISE Summer Program

Jun 28, 2019
Kathryne Davis

Child with bookThe Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience (RISE) program concluded its eighth year with a graduation ceremony in the Fair Street International Academy gymnasium Friday, June 28.

Around 130 students from Gainesville and Hall County school districts walked across the gym to receive certificates of achievement and other gifts to celebrate their time in the program. The students also performed songs and dances they learned during a confidence building workshop for family members.

The program was developed by Brenau University educators as a way to help prevent summer learning loss for children from low-income families and has grown over the years, with about 15 students in the first year. Students review subjects they learned during the previous school year and also have classes that include art, music and culinary art. Pre- and post-testing is done for RISE children and shows improvement in math and reading. The testing also shows prevention of summer learning loss. According to the RISE program website, 30% of students maintained knowledge in reading, while 63% showed growth in 2018. For math, 21% of students maintained, while 68% showed growth.

“Parents talk to me over the years and tell me why they like RISE,” said Maria Calkins from Gainesville Housing Authority. “It’s because when their kids go back to school in August they say, ‘My child is confident. They got to school and said they know this stuff.’ They see themselves more as confident students.”

Children are able to participate in the program at no cost due to the partnership with Brenau and the Gainesville Housing Authority, along with the support of the Gainesville City Schools, the United Way of Hall County, the Jackson EMC Foundation,

Group of children“We’re all about preventing summer learning loss,” said Tracy Troutman, the RISE program’s year-round coordinator and 2008 graduate of Brenau. “If they get more, that’s fantastic. But really it’s starting where they left off and not losing anything over the summer. I think they get exposed to things during the program they might not normally be exposed to.”

Troutman, who is also an art teacher at Fair Street, has been involved with the RISE program for three years.

“We upped our academic game this year,” she said. “We’re trying very hard to be academically based. But you can have fun and learn at the same time.”

The students learned how to make pizza completely from scratch, cooked with insects and went on different field trips, including the Fernbank Museum and the Atlanta Zoo.

Kia Shields, Brenau May 2019 graduate, has been a teacher in the RISE program for two years. She will be teaching first grade at Fair Street when the school year begins.

Shields’ favorite thing about the RISE program is helping the students and making memories with them. Many of her students went to the Atlanta Zoo and Fernbank for the first time and she enjoyed being able to be there with them to see their first impressions.

“RISE helps students to be ahead of the game and I am glad to be a part of that,” she said.

Children walking in graduation gownsCourtney Reidling, May 2019 graduate of Brenau, taught for the first time and said teaching kindergartners and first-graders at the RISE program was a great experience as she prepares to become a fifth-grade teacher at Bethlehem Elementary School in August. “My favorite part was the overall lovingness of the students and how they came in ready to learn,” Reidling said. “They knew they weren’t coming in just to have fun. I liked getting to teach them and help them prepare for next year. ”

Shields and Reidling both said the RISE program was a great way for them to be able to have their own classrooms, which helped them get ready for their new teaching positions.

“During student teaching, it’s not your classroom,” Reidling said. “A schedule has already been set. Having that freedom to make decisions with your own class in the RISE program I think helps you to really see what it’s like to be a teacher and not just a stranger in the classroom.”