A student receives a backpack.

RISE Summer Program creates new opportunities for 2020

Jul 29, 2020
Kathryne Davis

A child receives a RISE backpack.The Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience (RISE) program may have been put on hold this year due to COVID-19, but that did not stop Brenau University and its RISE partners from supporting children who otherwise would have been involved in the annual program.

After the 10th year of the program — developed by Brenau University educators as a way to help prevent summer learning loss for children from low-income families — was canceled, Brenau and its partners worked during the spring to make sure the students were still able to have some type of activities over the summer.

One of the projects was getting together backpacks for children that included school supplies and educational books as well as at-home craft kits donated by Home Depot.

“The RISE group thought, ‘How can we encourage the children to continue learning at home on their own?’” said grant writer Stefan Schulze, who worked on the project along with his colleagues in Brenau’s Office of External Relations. “It was about preparing them for the upcoming school year as well.”

In addition to the backpacks, RISE coordinated with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank to give away hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables to the families that were there to pick up the backpacks.

“The parents were so excited that they were able to get something educational for their children to do at home instead of being on screens all the time,” said Maria Calkins from Gainesville Housing Authority.

Another project was one-on-one mentoring in which 30 students were able to get individualized help from tutors based on their skill level. Each student participated in two 45-minute sessions every week for four weeks. In addition, students completed work outside of the virtual classroom. Although the summer work was not the typical RISE program, students showed improvement in their individual math and reading levels.

A parent receives a RISE backpack.“What was nice with the one-on-one tutoring is that we could reach the children exactly where they were with English and math to address some of their weaknesses,” Calkins said. “The goal of RISE is to address summer learning loss so if we could work on some tough spots with the children and give them some confidence for the next year, we’ve achieved our goal.”

Normally the students also go on field trips to the pool and different museums. Although that couldn’t happen in person this summer, they were still able to go on virtual field trips. Learning supplies were dropped off to the children each week for the field trips. Some of the trips included learning about slime in space, discovering how dominoes work, and creating directed drawings for doctors and nurses that were turned into cards for the local hospital.

Some of the other RISE partners include Gainesville City schools, United Way of Hall County, the Jackson EMC Foundation, Georgia Wireless Association and Rotary Club of Braselton. Children are able to participate in the program at no cost due to these partnerships.

At the end of the summer, this year’s RISE program accomplished what it set out to do.

“We were frantically trying to do something,” Schulze said. “We decided that if one program was successful we’d have that. But they all ended up having success.”