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New Program Partnership with YMCA Sparks Summer Learning

This summer, students were invited to attend the YMCA SPARK program.

This summer, USD 202 is partnering with the YMCA to offer a program aimed at helping build literacy skills. The program, YMCA SPARK, features a morning academic session with certified teachers and then an afternoon session with summer camp activities. Like summer school, SPARK is held at Oak Grove Elementary, but unlike summer school, it is a full day program. "As a teacher, I like that students work one on one with a certified instructor," said SPARK teacher Rebecca Stalter. "The program allows the teacher to teach each student at their skill level."

Marisa Florez, who was hired as a SPARK teacher this year, has been impressed with the program. "YMCA SPARK is an extra literacy boost for students in the summertime, which is when the infamous 'summer slide' can occur... Students who need that extra boost in reading benefit greatly from this structure. We build on skills they have already learned and even exposure to topics they will see in the following school year. Additionally, students are provided access to online reading instructors for a one-on-one tutoring session to give them that extra boost of confidence," said Florez.

The morning session is divided between four literacy blocks - reading, writing, guided reading, and word work - along with breaks between the academic work. In the afternoon session, students participate in a variety of activities that are structured more like a summer camp: bowling, aquatics, crafts, etc. "It is also fantastic how much the camp directors put into the scheduling, coordination and everything else it takes to get these kids to and from places, and to help them create wonderful memories that last a lifetime," said Florez.

Although students were apprehensive of the program at first - understandable with it being a new program for the district - they quickly came to look forward to their days at SPARK. Florez shared that through the program "students have had the time and experience to build a community with the other students, teachers and teacher leaders."

SPARK is offered at no cost to the families. Because of a partnership the YMCA has with Lead to Read KC, as well as funding from the Linda L. Moffett Foundation, they are able to offer high quality literacy instruction to students in the program. Thank you the YMCA for providing this program to our students this summer!