Updated: Apr 7
When middle school site coordinator Penny noticed high suspension and detention rates among female students at her school, she created G.E.M.S. (Girls, Empowered, Motivated, and Succeeding), an after school program focused on mentoring, combating chronic absenteeism, social emotional learning, encouraging active lifestyles, and conflict management. At Communities In Schools (CIS) of Tennessee, we know that social and emotional development plays important roles in ensuring that students succeed academically; students who believe in themselves are more likely to persist through challenging situations.
Penny selected 15 females – ranging from fifth through eighth grade – who lived in low-income neighborhoods without access to transportation, had high suspension and detention rates, and needed academic support. From October 2016 to April 2017, her students received weekly services including academic assistance, behavior interventions, health education and activities such as developing a fitness regimen, college tours, and family engagement events. Lastly, the girls performed at their school-wide leadership pep rally to showcase their positive gains.
As a result of Penny’s program, chronic absenteeism and suspensions decreased by at least 5 percent among female students and 80 percent of the girls who participated increased overall in their core subjects and improved their quarterly school attendance. Over two decades of data show the positive effects of afterschool programs on student achievement, attendance and graduation rates – and parents and families agree that afterschool programs are important.
“Without the programs that Penny provides for my girls, they would just be in the house. It is too dangerous for children to go out in the neighborhood. My children love Penny [and] I’m thankful for her help,” said parent Christie.
As these 15 students continue to work towards graduation, we know that the knowledge and support G.E.M.S. provided will help them better navigate through various difficult situations they may face in their lives.