Doing Good: Nonprofit aims to bridge education gap in Peoplestown

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At D.H. Stanton Elementary School, third grade reading levels declined significantly. In 2014, only 65.9 percent of third grade students could read at or above grade level. This is down from 85 percent of students who could read at or above their grade level in 2009.

In order to address the education gap, the neighborhood nonprofit Emmaus House established a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program at D. H. Stanton, located in Peoplestown, a town just south of Turner Field.

The program provides six weeks of summer reading enrichment for children who might otherwise not have access to books or the environmental structure necessary to do summer reading and lessen the effects of the “summer slide.”

In its first year of the Freedom Schools program, 100 percent of the scholars who were evaluated maintained or gained in their instructional reading level over the six-week program as measured by pre- and post-standardized testing. Of those, 79 percent of students tested improved their instructional level in reading and students who maintained their reading level all showed gains in either accuracy, comprehension or fluency within that reading level.

The nonprofit works within Peoplestown to promote economic self-sufficiency and stability for residents and to foster the development of the neighborhood’s youth. To this end, Emmaus House offers year-round education and arts programming for children, including summer education offered at the Freedom Schools.

“We have two primary goals. The first is to increase educational outcomes for children and youth. The second is to provide opportunities that lead to economic independence for families, “ said Greg Cole, CFRE Director of Development and Communications.

Emmaus House’ efforts extend to programs like Homework Relief Boot Camp for Parents, Community Supper, Camp Summer Hope and more that help bridge the poverty and education gap.

Parent and Peoplestown-resident Toshiba Reese participated in the Homework Relief Boot Camp, a program that increases the literacy skills of both children and parents so that they can achieve greater success in school and in the workplace.

“I was excited because I was looking for help like this,” said Reese. “The resources are good for parents and kids and it helped me and my daughter with our education. I joined the Bootcamp class because it hurt me to send my child to my brother for help with her homework.”

The community can get involved and give back through volunteering for Emmaus House’s many programs. People from the community can read to the scholars each morning and the nonprofit also has a wish list set up with from which people can purchase books to send to Emmaus House.

Volunteers can contact Emmaus House directly to inquire about more opportunities. Additionally, they can choose to become Peoplestown Partners, a program that raises funds for the Freedom Schools program and Peoplestown Family Initiative.

The nonprofit also serves adults and provides resources for job placement, assistance in obtaining identification, healthcare assistance and family case management.

In other news: On Dec. 10, Atkins Park Restaurant & Bar's 10th annual Santa Ride raised $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of owner Warren Bruno.