After school, Iowa City students Strive for Success

Program helps students behind in math, reading

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IOWA CITY — Inside the Church of the Nazarene in Iowa City, students are spending time after school working to become better in school.

Sitting side by side at a table, a teacher helps an 11-year-old with math homework. Another student works on a math program on a computer, while another sorts through books from her bag.

The 10 students — in third through sixth grade — wear navy blue hooded sweatshirts that say “Got Education?” as well as “Strive for Success,” the name of the program that’s helping them do better at school.

Founded in 2012, Strive for Success is a faith-based, after-school program designed to improve students’ math and reading skills. The program was founded by Caleb Thomas, who was a counselor for seven years at Grant Wood Elementary in Iowa City.

“I started the program,” he says, “based on the needs of students not having positive things to do after school, as well as some of the kids falling behind in their academics, recognizing that it would be wonderful to provide a safe environment for kids to come and get caught up on their academics and reading and math.”

The program, he says, helps students who are one to two grade levels behind in reading and math become proficient in those subjects. It employs licensed teachers and practicum students at the University of Iowa as trained volunteer tutors.

The program operates from 4:15 to 6:15 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and from 3:15 to 6:15 p.m. Thursdays.

Sutdents start by signing in, having a snack and creating a daily progress report that “allows them to figure out what they have to do for the day,” Thomas says.

Besides working on homework, they take time for sports and other activities.

TaSean Henderson, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Horn Elementary, is working his way through math folders that gradually increase in difficulty and that are part of the Teacher Accelerated Instruction program.

The work, he says, helped him earn a 96 percent on a recent math test. Math is now his favorite subject.

The program, he says, helps in other areas: “When you come in, you gotta be respectful.”

Eleven-year-old Joshua Thomas, also a sixth grader at Horn, says he joined to improve his math and reading skills.

“If I wasn’t in this program, I wouldn’t have the best grades,” he says.

Strive for Success staffers stay in touch with the students’ teachers and keep them aware of areas where a child might be struggling, Thomas says.

“The school district has changed its (math) curriculum, which I really enjoy because it provides a lot of story problems,” Thomas says. “However, because the kids are behind in their reading, it takes them a longer time to get their math done. It can take some of these students up to an hour just to get some of their math homework done.”

Students pay $25 a month as an education investment fee to be in the program, Thomas says. Sponsors also assist with costs.

“Hopefully, through word of mouth,” Thomas says, “the community will begin to learn more about this program.”

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