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Community School Partnership Helps Boys at Risk

‘Let’s rock the DREAAM House!’

Jason Knight, a DREAAM achievement coach, works with a student. (Photo by Jay Schubert)

Jason Knight, a DREAAM achievement coach, works with a student. (Photo by Jay Schubert)

August 10, 2016

“Let’s rock the DREAAM House.” Those are the words coming from 10 excited five-year-old boys participating in the DREAAM Summer Pre -K Academy. The DREAAM House is a community-school partnership significantly funded by First Presbyterian Church of Champaign and Southeastern Illinois Presbytery.

“It was created to reach, teach and invest in African-American boys at risk,” said Tracy D. Dace, a member of First Presbyterian and developer of the pre-K program. “Guided by the principles of social justice and educational best practices, the DREAAM Team designed a summer program to intervene and increase kindergarten readiness in the areas of math, reading, social/emotional learning and school expectations.” The acronym DREAAM stands for Driven to Reach Excellence and Academic Achievement for Males.

The summer program runs for four weeks at an elementary school in Champaign, a small urban community wrestling with a number of issues, including juvenile delinquency, poor school outcomes and gun violence. But it is also the site of a major public research university, a number of social service providers and an active faith-based community.

Dace developed a vision for reaching boys at an early age in an effort to address the growing problem of academic underachievement. However, he adds that the program involves much more than just learning the basics. In addition to getting an early start on education, the boys also take field trips and learn about expected social and emotional behavior. The program was officially launched last summer.

“Expectations are high for kindergartners, and many are simply not ready,” said Dace. “The range of readiness gaps at school entry differs across schools and communities. African American boys with lower levels of learning and social skills than many of their peers are particularly at risk. The DREAAM House Summer Pre-K Academy focuses on increasing success in kindergarten and addressing the early developmental needs of boys at risk.”

While it’s still too early to determine the long-term impact of the program, initial reports from local schools have been positive. Dace says teachers report significant progress among some of the DREAAM House participants.

“When I see the boys in the community or at school, they are excited about DREAAM and ask when they can go back again or what we are doing next time at the DREAAM House,” he adds. “Parents are very supportive, and our school superintendent has taken a keen interest in the program.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has made education and poverty alleviation a priority. Working with partners in the U.S. and worldwide, the denomination has set a goal of providing high-quality education for one million children by the year 2020. The initiative emphasizes strengthening communities’ capacity to provide high-quality education, improving teacher training and resources, and creating a safe environment in which children can learn.

Rick Jones, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s focus: Southeastern Illinois Presbytery

Let us join in prayer for:

Presbytery Staff:

Bill McLean, Presbyter for Congregational Care
Cindy Bean, Stated Clerk
Brenda Garry, Administrative Assistant
Marsha Mower, Secretary
Dan Kingery, Camp Carew Director
Paul Saegesser, Treasurer

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Debbie Braaksma, PMA
Delvin Braaksma, PMA

Let us pray

Loving God, give us eyes to see people who are “invisible” to us but who are known and deeply loved by you. Change our hearts so that we might see and serve all people as your beloved children. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11
First Reading Judges 13:15-24
Second Reading Acts 6:1-15
Gospel Reading John 4:1-26
Evening Psalms 1; 33

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