Young readers recognized for their achievements at Vicksburg City Hall

Published 1:51 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The United Way of West Central Mississippi held a small celebration last Thursday for children involved in the organization’s Post-COVID Educational Enhancement Program.

Children ranging from kindergarten to third grade were treated to a trolley ride to the Vicksburg City Hall to meet Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in recognition of their achievements.

The program, which takes place after school at daycares and tutoring centers, is designed to address the literacy gap in young students that has been exacerbated by challenges faced by schools during the pandemic. Sharon Williams is the director of the program.

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“We have a lot of students who are not reading on grade level. And if we can improve their ability to read and understand, we met our goal,” she said, adding that the program currently is designed for students from kindergarten through third grade, “but this upcoming year, we’re also going to include in some of our sites, fourth and fifth graders as well.”

The United Way partnered with the City of Vicksburg, the Vicksburg-Warren School District, and local daycares to bring the project to fruition.

This was the first school year the program has run. It came after a pilot program in the Summer of 2021 that ran for seven weeks and produced impressive results, Williams said. On average, the students gained four months of reading growth during those seven weeks.

When addressing the literacy gap, one metric the United Way uses to judge the effectiveness of the program is an estimated closure of said gap based on STAR reading tests.

According to a press release from the UWWCM, participants at Good Foundations Tutoring Services, an afterschool program in Vicksburg that facilitates the program, saw an average of two years and seven months of improvement during the course of the 2021-2022 school year.

The program is partially funded by the city of Vicksburg.

“We had some ARPA money, and that money is to assist (the) underprivileged community,” Flaggs said. “And I think one of the best ways to improve the quality of life is to improve educational reading opportunities for young kids.”

The program has been funded for another year of operation. Flaggs said he wants to continue funding after that year is up.

“We’re going to have the money by mid-July, and we have every intention of funding (it),” Flaggs said. “They enjoy learning. And that’s the key. I think every child can read and write and can be taught.

“And I credit the United Way for the leadership that they provide,” he added.

Michelle Connelly holds the position of Executive Director for the UWWCM and said she is excited about the success of the young program.

“The Post-COVID Educational Enhancement Program is a testament both to the power of collaboration and innovation as well as our community’s dedication to our children,” she said. “By partnering with the City of Vicksburg and the Vicksburg-Warren School District, we’ve been able to create a program that’s as unique as our community, and we’re excited to see Post-COVID Educational Enhancement Program’s impact take root as it continues to grow.”

Those interested in supporting the program can visit unitedwayvicksburg.org.