Thursday, August 11, 2011

Police Athletic League and Upper Room make strides in reading program

I mentioned last week about our PAL-Upper Room graduation on Aug. 5. Our Informant newsletter delves more into just how successful the program was at improving the literacy skills of the children our Police Athletic League serves. And be sure to check out photos of the graduation on our Facebook page and the video below the story made by one of the PAL Board members documenting how the 8-week program went:

Nearly 100 children increased their reading levels this summer in a new partnership between the Police Athletic League and the Upper Room Program.

The average participant in the eight-week program at PAL gained four months of reading grade level.

“They did very well,” said Jerry McEvoy, executive director of Upper Room.

Upper Room started in 1999 in a church at 59th and Swope Parkway to provide out-of-school education to inner-city children from low-income families. The non-profit program spread across the city, mostly in churches. But McEvoy said they started looking at areas where churches didn’t have the classroom space to support the program.

The Police Athletic League (PAL) got involved after a PAL Board member’s own children attended one of Upper Room’s summer academic camps last year. She called the Upper Room and asked if they’d like to partner with PAL. The directors said they would consider it and made a site visit to the PAL Center at 1801 White Ave. in spring 2011. Officers at PAL were eager to bring Upper Room’s opportunities to the neighborhood children.

“We wanted them here for the kids in the PAL community,” said Sergeant Martin Cobbinah, a supervisor of KCPD PAL.

McEvoy said he was impressed with officers who worked at PAL and their desire to help the children they serve.

“That’s what convinced us (to partner with them),” McEvoy said. “They were very aggressive in wanting to give the kids more academic opportunities. They felt the kids could learn more.”

And they have. Simply through word-of-mouth marketing by PAL officers, more than 100 children going into first through eighth grades signed up for the rigorous program, taught by certified teachers with assistance from PAL officers and volunteer tutors. The Summer Academic Camp ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday. Students spent the first part of their days working with teachers and tutors on reading and some math, taking tests to determine their proficiency. After a provided lunch, children engaged in a variety of fun and cultural activities and were given time to read books.

Graduates who have missed fewer than two days of the program and averaged an 85 percent or higher score on their reading exams receive a monetary reward. The Upper Room funds the program.

The Upper Room and PAL will continue their partnership with an after-school program this fall and another round of academic summer camp next year. Anyone interested in being a volunteer tutor in these programs can call 913-339-8332. Training will be provided.