Xinyan Daisy Qui, BU '18, and one of the teachers of RISE, talks with Jakie Gomez inside her classroom during the RISE summer program. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Xinyan Daisy Qui, BU '18, and one of the teachers of RISE, talks with Jakie Gomez inside her classroom during the RISE summer program. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau students, alumni prevent learning loss in RISE Program

Jul 13, 2018
Kristen Bowman

Local parents were treated to a show during the commencement ceremony for the Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience, known as RISE, in the Fair Street International Academy gym on Friday, July 13.

Donning green caps and gowns, the 130 students from Gainesville and Hall County school districts processed into the gym and participated in a talent show — singing, dancing and speaking in front of the crowd to show their appreciation.

The program was first developed by Brenau University educators to help low-income children cap summer learning loss through innovative programming and with an emphasis on health, nutrition and cultural awareness. Today, the program is led by Brenau alumnae and student teachers, who get hands-on experience and college credit.

The six-week program is offered at no cost to the child’s family, thanks to the partnership between Brenau, the Gainesville Housing Authority, Gainesville City Schools and United Way of Hall County, along with the generous support of Jackson EMC Foundation, Liberty Utilities, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Alliance for Literacy and more.

“Kids that come out of kindergarten through fifth grade come to RISE to retain what they just learned,” said Deanna Stovall, Brenau class of 2015 and lead of the RISE program. “We’re preventing the learning loss, not necessarily boosting them above the next grade level. But we know otherwise in the summer they could experience that learning loss and go back to school in the fall unprepared.”

Brenau conducts pre- and post-testing for RISE children, which continually shows significant improvement in math and reading and clear prevention of summer learning loss.

Stovall, who teaches kindergarten at Gainesville Elementary School, said during the six-week program children are provided breakfast Monday through Thursday and are back in a classroom setting, doing reading, writing and math instruction. They also have “specials” or classes that include cooking, physical education, dance, drama and science. The program this year also included field trips to the Georgia Aquarium and Atlanta Zoo.

Chelsey Holland, Brenau class of ’18 and another teacher in the RISE program, said she participates in RISE as an alumna for an opportunity to give back to the community. Holland has accepted a teaching position at Gaines Elementary School in Clarke County, Georgia.

“I’m able to give these kids food, proper education and, basically, care,” Holland said. “I’m like their summer mom. For me it’s all about giving back to them because they need and deserve so much more than they have.”

The commencement ceremony Friday was followed by a celebration for the families, which offered cake and juice, as well as free school supplies and bags of food from the food bank for families.

Fair Street art teacher and Brenau alumna Tracy Troutman said she was thrilled to be part of the partnership between Brenau, the housing authority and the other community partners because of the opportunity it gives Brenau student teachers and recent alumnae.

Xinyan “Daisy” Qiu, a May 2018 graduate of Brenau, agreed. Qiu was a member of the inaugural class in the 2+2 partnership between Brenau and Anhui University in Wuhu, China.

“I would say it’s a great start for me and for my teaching career,” Qiu said. “I’ve come across a lot of challenges and it has been a tough process, but I’ve been making it step by step. It is exactly what I need to start off my teaching career, so I really appreciate this time.”