Reach For Tomorrow, Inc. (RFT) has an extended history of working with federally sponsored GEAR UP programs using both our summer experiential programs and our web based academic programming. Since 2014 RFT has provided the University of Kansas (KU) GEAR UP program with the training and access to Extralearning Online enabling their participating students to receive academic credit from Kansas City Public Schools KCPS- see LINK to ACADEMIC PROGRAM PAGE. Additionally, RFT is a partner with the Wichita State University (WSU) GEAR UP program offering the both an academic and “in kind match” program.
“In Kind Match”
GEAR UP programs must secure matching funds annually in order to retain an awarded grant. RFT is able to assist GEAR UP awardees with a matching “in kind” contribution which includes virtually unlimited student and instructor access to a web based IT training program that contains more than 60,000 instructional streaming videos as well as state standard based instructional curricula content. The value per student and the nearly unlimited access to the program enables RFT to support GEAR UP program managers with a powerful value added tool to their proposals.
Summer Experiential Programs
Malcolm Gladwell in his treatise, Outliers , points specifically to a Johns Hopkins study by Karl Alexander wherein students were tested in June and again in September using a California Achievement Test over a 5 year period(Outliers, pp.255-258). This biannual distinction allowed researchers to focus on changes in student reading proficiency achieved during the summer months. Students were divided into three economic groups and throughout the academic year the low income students actually equaled or surpassed affluent student gains; however, by the end of the 5th year the high income students’ measured gains were more than double those of the low income students. The difference maker it appears was what the students did during the summer.
The Miami Dade County Office of Assessment, Research, and Data Analysis published an “Information Capsule” in May 2011: “Summer learning loss is a documented phenomenon. Studies dating back to 1906 have consistently found that most students receive lower scores on the same standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they earned at the beginning of summer (Afterschool Alliance, 2010; Wongkee, 2010; McLaughlin & Smink, 2009; National Summer Learning Association, 2009a ). A number of researchers have concluded that nearly all of the differences in achievement between low-income students and their more advantaged classmates are due to inequities in their experiences during the summer months. This conclusion is based on studies that indicate that children in all income groups learn basic skills at similar rates during the school year; however, low-income children’s skills regress more than those of middle- and high-income children during the summer (Von Drehle, 2010; Terzian et al., 2009; Alexander et al., 2007; Miller, 2007; Chaplin & Capizzano, 2006). Studies have also found that the effect of summers without learning is cumulative and that low-income children fall further and further behind their peers who participate in summer learning opportunities every year (Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network, 2010; Terzian et al., 2009).”
RFT has designed and managed summer college experiential programs for more than 5,000 students and adult chaperons since 1993- see Summer Programs link. We are able to create similar college and community based programs integrating federal, state, and local resources for any GEAR UP program partner located at their own campus or a another college or university. RFT summer programs are designed to integrate existing resources such as college classrooms and instructors, on campus athletic and recreational activities with off campus assets such as flight training schools, military bases including their training courses and personnel, corporate training facilities, and career training programs all linked to grade school classroom attendance, performance, and attitudes. By using what is already available in a community, RFT reduces the cost of producing an exceptional experience for any youth program.
These summer programs can stand alone as outcomes for the GEAR UP participants or be linked to specific metrics authored by the GEAR UP directors such as academic performance, attendance in school and GEAR UP activities, community service, etc. The desired outcome for these experiences is for students to understand how higher education can lead to future careers in fields they may have not known existed as well as reinforce any prior ambition to pursue a specific job or career.
RFT utilizes a variety of colleges to include Division 1, private, and community college campuses to host their summer programming. While these RFT programs may serve a role exposing a specific department, professor, or facility on a campus, the true purpose is to show a student that they can do the work in such an environment- if they prepare. For many years RFT collaborated with the US Air Force Academy, US Naval Academy, US Merchant Marine Academy, and US Military Academy. Not as a recruiting agent for the military or an academy but to remove the cost barrier for entry to post secondary education. RFT rationalized that if a student would prepare to enter any of these military service academies, then they would be prepared to successfully enter many colleges in the nation. After all, as any USAF Academy Cadet knows, the answer to a “Why?” question is always, “No excuse, Sir!” Hence, RFT seeks to remove all excuses to the young student wh0 is asked “Why did you not attend college?” If a student knows and then prepares, the student can complete a course of study at some college.