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Mon, April 1, 2013
Health, Wellness & Academic Intervention
As the founder and director of a nonprofit education organization that focuses purposely on at-risk students of elementary school age, I believe that the health of a nation rests with the intellectual health and stability of its people. As a child, growing up in a single parent household in the nation’s capital, I can remember how important school and good grades were to my mom, who only had a high school education but was the smartest woman I know.

I remember how she would go over our homework to make certain that we didn’t just copy text from a book; how she would never accept a C as your grade when she knew you could get an A; how she would sit with my sibling and me and create word games for us to play and solve. Mom was extremely present when it came to education because she believed that this was her greatest responsibility to introducing us to the world. This was the beginning of my relationship with words, word meanings and word origins; my passion for reading with full comprehension; and my determination for writing with purpose.

EduCare, our academic intervention organization, was established to help combat the illiteracy concerns in a small community, one of many, in the state of North Carolina. During the research and discovery phase of our planning, we found statistical information that was staggering, to say the least. For instance, so many children were failing in preschool and first grade from being unprepared for basic instruction; other students were falling further behind from the loss of instruction due to long school breaks and grade retention; and still other students were marked as potential middle school dropouts, in as early as third grade.

As I understood much of the research; one or two or all three of the following components seemed to influence these statistics:
  1. the lack of parental involvement in the education process
  2. an inability to understand the necessity for school and schoolwork thereby creating disinterest, and
  3. a general lack of enforcement of the regulations regarding the provision of education as a whole.
Further research determined that this is not simply a North Carolina problem; it is a nationwide and systemic problem that begs the immediate attention of the powers-that-be and those in the community. These harrowing statistics sound an immediate wake-up call to action!

As we hone in on the health consequences of the achievement gaps at the local and state levels, studies show that children who continue on the underside of the achievement gap progress into adulthood with lower wages, poorer health and increased incarceration rates. These children are also less likely to participate in health maintenance programs, such as annual dental or doctor visits, and parents are less likely to seek medical attention until it is necessary. It is also unlikely that these children partake of well-rounded or wholesome meals or snacks on a regular basis.

This can oftentimes lend itself to children requiring more extensive and expensive healthcare than would have been needed had symptoms been discovered earlier. Studies have also shown that children, who are continually in poor health, have higher rates of absenteeism and lower attention spans resulting in the inability to concentrate and comprehend schoolwork. When these children are already at risk academically, these factors compound and exacerbate existing academic challenges. As a result, an economically hazardous disease plagues the core of the nation’s populations while on the surface a superficial display of health and wellness prevails.

There are other long-term consequences, associated with the illiteracy rates in our communities that do not always catch our attention. These consequences impact the health and performance of our country on the national and international stage, as it pertains to the Gross Domestic Production (GDP), the market value of our goods and services.

Studies show that gaps in academic achievement significantly impact the GDP for better or worse. For instance, a continued gap in academic achievement could account for a significantly lower performance ranking (GDP) among the international community. This could very well render our goods and services essentially worthless. On the other hand, as we continue fighting to close the gap, the repercussion of our scholastic achievement can considerably improve the health of our nation, thereby increasing the power of our goods and services as it pertains to international exchange.

Since our establishment in 2010, and the first group of children to enter our center during the 2011-2012 school year, we have periodically experienced the parental negligence to provide guidance and the systemic unwillingness to participate with us in our grassroots undertakings towards scholastic achievement.

Even so, we have also seen the look in a student’s eyes and the improvement in their grades when they suddenly get it. We have experienced the appreciation from teachers when they no longer have to struggle to help students gain basic concepts, due to the remedial instruction we provide after school. And finally, we have experienced the satisfaction from parents with whom we take the time to explain unfamiliar information provided about their children from the schools. Despite the obstacles, we do what we do to make a difference that will impact us all.

As a grassroots academic intervention program designed to provide subject matter remediation, we have no misconceptions about our inability to control or combat the variety of social challenges that exist in the lives of children who are at-risk academically. However, we earnestly believe that as they begin to gain a better grasp on the necessity of education at the primary school level, we can plant the seed of change that will create a ripple effect, resulting in their personal ability to then positively influence other areas of their lives. This is the dream; this is the vision that propels us forward!

In closing, there is a golden rule that tells us to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us. We, at EduCare, along with countless other community organizations out there working with children, do firmly believe in this golden rule. After all, it really does take a village to raise strong, healthy, well-balanced children, the future of our nation!

References

1. Teaching with Poverty in Mind: How Poverty Affects Behavior and Academic Performance. ASCD

2. The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America, McKinsey & Company.

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