Summer program combats learning slide, offers opportunities, field trips to children from low income families

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -  Summer learning loss accounts for nearly 2/3 of the 9th grade achievement gap in reading. It's worse for low-income students, especially because most don't have access to summer enrichment opportunities. But, the Schools Foundation extended an opportunity this summer.

Rising Madison County 7th Grader Cordell Jackson sets high goals for himself.

"Try to get all A's," Jackson said of this year's goals.

Cordell is spending several weeks engaging in Summer Adventures in Learning, or SAIL, specifically in the Heart of the Valley YMCA Bell Scholar's Program at Madison County Elementary School.

"We're providing opportunity and access to some of the things they may not be able to afford," Lamont Singleton, Director of Youth Development and Social Responsibility, said.

The school opened the summer program to all students, especially those who come from lower income families.

"We targeted a certain population of kids we knew academically were going to slide," Amy Mason, Madison County Elementary School Principal, said. "We're trying to prevent that summer learning loss."

The SAIL Program is free for the students, paid for by sponsors.

"A kid in a lower income community may not have those experiences of going on family vacations, and to the library and things of that nature," Singleton said.

Students in low-income families lose an average of two to three months in reading, and two months of math skills each summer. Remember, that's cumulative. But, programs like SAIL can reverse the learning loss, and it's fun for students.

"We've been able to take them on trips such as the space and rocket center," Mason said. "We're taking them to A&M where they can have that experience of stepping foot on a college campus, in addition to receiving swimming lessons, which for many of them would be an un-affordable experience. The students after their two weeks of swimming lessons are going to Spring Valley Beach trip."