Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta – Enhancing Student Academic Success

For more than 75 years, the Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta has provided children with a place of safety, enrichment, and opportunity to become productive, caring, and responsible adults.

Serving more than 1,000 children and teens daily across six sites in Lowndes and Brooks counties, the Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta offers afterschool and summer programs built around the core components of Character and Leadership, Healthy Lifestyles, and Academic Success.

The academic component has become a significant focus as the lingering impact of COVID-19 has altered the learning process for K-12 students.

Depriving students of the quality education they deserve, COVID-19 classroom disruptions have created uncertainty, a lack of continuity and structure, as well as emotional distress.

“Students were often thrust into situations where learning was compromised, physical health was placed in jeopardy, and parents were having to make difficult choices for their children,” said Chryse Thomas, a retired Valdosta City School teacher and teacher at the Valdosta Boys & Girls Club. “Nothing matches the relationship and bonding being in a classroom can provide—not to mention the academics introduced, practiced, retaught, repeated, and absorbed.”

Often called the “COVID slide,” national analysis shows that the academic impact of the pandemic on K-12 students was significant and left students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months in reading.

“About 85 percent of our children have documented learning loss in the past year,” said Kristin Hanna, vice president for marketing and development at the Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta. “The large majority of these students were already behind in literacy and math.”

As part of a statewide effort to address learning loss, the Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta received funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) grant to further enhance student academic achievement.

The program’s goals include ensuring 65% of youth identified below grade level achieve grade-level proficiency, and 35% of youth demonstrate an increase or progress toward grade-level achievement.

Through the presence of certified teachers, the Boys & Girls Club is reinforcing skills presently being taught in the classroom.

“The Club has resources available to teachers, like games and activities, to enhance their teaching,” Thomas said. “Teachers are also able to pull students for one-on-one assistance, which can have a huge impact.”

The teacher-student interaction also includes assistance with homework.

“Since the students have already put in a full day at school, we want to make sure their academic time is not only productive but enjoyable,” said Thomas, who has been serving at the Boys & Girls Club for 10 years. “Social interaction continues to play a prominent role at the Club. We are continually working on social skills that are necessary and needed to be successful.”

Hanna said the GEER grant adds to the existing academic programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta.

“We were already offering one-on-one tutoring and assistance with homework,” Hanna said. “But with COVID, we had to ramp it up and identify the students that were falling further behind and provide them with individualized help.”

As a partner agency with the Greater Valdosta United Way, the Boys & Girls Club receives an annual allocation. In 2021, the Club was awarded a Bruce Williams Impact Grant to purchase smart boards that allow for fun and engaging classroom enrichment.

“We are making progress with the children who need us most, and the United Way helps make that possible,” Hanna said. “They champion our programs and help the community see the importance of our Boys & Girls Club.”

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