Success By 6 is a nationwide program of the United Way that is helping to ensure successful students by giving them a jump start before they experience their first day of kindergarten. The program takes pre-kindergarten children and gives them a fun-filled, four-week crash course in reading and math.
“This is for those who didn’t go to preschool,” said Success By 6 coordinator Jackie Glista. “We are giving them the skills to be successful.”
The program runs for four hours a day and not only helps prepare them for school in the realm of academics, but also gives them tools for social behavior as well. As they work with peers, they learn to cooperate and establish friendships.
In Maria Nadzam’s math class, a pair of giant dice were used to get numbers that were used to select different color cubes from a bowl. The children are then asked to add the red cubes and the green cubes to find out how many they have ended up with.
“Look, you guys are adding, that’s wonderful,” Nadzam told the class when they got the answer right.
Glista said the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley started the program in South Range and Campbell schools two years ago. The program spread to 14 schools last year that included Canfield and Austintown. This year, Boardman was added to the list and is three weeks into its first session.
Boardman and 15 other school districts’ participation in the Success By 6 program was made possible through a grant from the John S. and Doris M. Andrews Fund, that was issued through Huntington Bank to the local United Way. The grant, referred to as an investment, was for $53,000.
“The Andrews Fund recognizes that quality early learning increases success in school, graduation rates, workforce readiness, job productivity and community engagement,” said David Sabine, Andrews Fund senior trust officer. “The fund is pleased to support the pre-kindergarten readiness program that is a central part of United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley’s Success By 6 Early Childhood Initiative.”
Sabine and Glista joined United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley’s President Bob Hannon, Market Street Elementary School Principal Jim Stitt and Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri for a tour of the Success By 6 classes at Market Street on Thursday, Aug. 11.
“The response in Boardman has been great,” Lazzeri said.
Boardman has four units in the program. Each elementary school building in a district is considered as a unit. when the program began with just two schools, there were nine units. Last year, the 14 schools had a total of 24 units and with the addition of Boardman schools this year the unit number now stands at 31.
As a way to monitor the learning ability of the program, each student takes a test at the beginning and then at the end. Results in the Valley have so far seen a good success rate.
“Last year, 86 percent of the students in the program showed improvement,” Glista said.
She said she expects similar or even better numbers this year. Glista also keeps tabs on the program by visiting the schools involved during the summer months. She said some have their session earlier in the summer and some choose to go later, making it easier to get to all of them throughout the summer months.
To ensure a quality experience, the program attempts to keep two teachers for every 15 children. Many in the program are kindergarten teachers to begin with and the schools attempt to keep the kids in the Success By 6 program with the same teacher.
Hannon said it is through the donations from the Andrews Fund and PNC, who is the United Way’s corporate sponsor, that allows the program to keep going and keeps it free for parents.
Glista said the hope is to keep enlarging the program to more Valley school districts to ensure each pre-K child gets a jump start on the school years.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Market Street Elementary School Principal Jim Stitt questions some of the pre-kindergarten children in the Success By 6 class of Chrys Ritter.