Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced $750,000 for HoCo STRIVES in Fiscal Year 2022, an 88% increase over the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, to tackle the achievement gap for Howard County students. Beginning in 2018, the HoCo STRIVES program serves as an umbrella for several initiatives that engage community partners to ensure all Howard County children and youth can succeed in school. HoCo STRIVES which stands for Strategies To Reach an Inclusive Vision and Equitable Solutions, provides resources and services such as food access programs, mental health access, and social and emotional learning programs. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.
“According to Ready at Five, prior to the pandemic in Howard County, 69% of white children were prepared for kindergarten, compared to 44% of Black children and 35% of Hispanic children,” said Ball. “We are using this moment to be proactive – we know that in the upcoming year the data will show these gaps that already existed were only exacerbated by the pandemic. That’s why we’re doing what we can to level the playing field for our students and families who have fallen behind. These investments we are making now will have a positive impact on our children and youth for the remainder of their lives.”
The additional funding will support three critical initiatives:
- Doubling the capacity for the Summer Scholars’ program from 90 to 180 students
- Establishing an after-school program at Deep Run Elementary
- And launching a new local leadership team in Elkridge to help identify student and community needs.
“When we think of Howard County we think of our County’s affluence, and that’s a very positive thing, but we also need to lift up individuals in our community who have great challenges,” said Dr. Michael Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent. “In our school system 23% of our young people, close to 12,000 students qualify for free or reduce meals. Now more than ever we need to rally around our young people to provide the supports because of the regression that has occurred during the summer, and the regression that has occurred during the last 15 months that has really exacerbated our concerns. Thank you to County Executive Ball for acknowledging the challenges we have in our community and implementing targeted solutions that are going to actuate change for our young people and their families.”
The Summer Scholars program works with rising middle school students to get them math and English ready and supports students who have fallen behind by getting them back on the graduation track. This summer, the Scholars program will expand from one site at Oakland Mills Middle to two sites, now also serving Harper’s Choice and Wilde Lake Middle school students. This will double the number of middle school students the program is able to serve from 90 to 180 students. The program operates for four weeks in July for 8 hours a day, 5 days per week.
The program began in the summer of 2018 based on the work of the Local Leadership Team in Oakland Mills, who identified this need within their community and helped design this program to provide opportunities for middle schoolers who required extra attention as they prepared for high school.
Based on the latest in-person cohort of Summer Scholars from Oakland Mills Middle School that:
- 94% of rising 6th and 7th graders completed the program on track to take Algebra 1 in 8th grade,
- 44% of rising 8th graders completed the program on track to take Algebra 1 in the upcoming academic year,
- 100% of students maintained or improved their reading scores
“The Howard County Summer Scholars program saved my life, it brought much needed hope back into my life. I had very supportive teachers and they helped me realize I wasn’t alone,” said Masroor Haq, Summer Scholars student. “Just like me, there were other kids going through the challenges of puberty, isolation, and depression during this difficult time. The existence of this program is a testament to the care shown by the program developers towards kids in my situation. Thanks to the Summer Scholars I am well on my way to the path of recovery and normalcy.”
After-School Program at Deep Run
The increased Fiscal Year 2022 funding will also be used to establish The Back to School Project, an after-school program at Deep Run Elementary for families living in the Deep Run Mobile Home Park and Sherwood Crossing Apartments. It will be a collaboration between the Local Children’s Board, the Office of Children and Families, and Howard County Public School System.
Specifically, the program will provide academic support and enrichment services for students in grades K-3 that will include a social and emotional learning component and enrichment activities beyond academics. The program will kick-off at the end of the summer with a Back to School Night and will provide 400 of K-12 students with school supplies.
In addition to providing support to students, the program will also provide quality programming for their parents and families. This will involve helping them navigate school system and human services agencies, as well as facilitating connections to mental health resources.
The adult programming will also provide free English Language tutoring to parents and families in need of this service.
“We’re looking forward to continuing the authentic conversations and to hear more about the specific needs of our community,” said Sophia Quirk, Deep Run Elementary Vice Principal. “The many components of STRIVES will address a diversity of needs, including access to after school child care, providing necessities like back to school materials, access to mental health support and establishing the local leadership team.”
Local Leadership Team in Elkridge
The funding will also support a new Local Leadership Team in Elkridge – a group tasked with identifying the specific services a community would most benefit from, such as food or medical access, or extra learning supports.
The Oakland Mills Local Leadership Team, which has become a trusted community resource and helped guide many HoCo STRIVES initiatives, will serve as the model for this new group in Elkridge.
“Over the past three years we’ve been able to have a lot of impact in our community,” said Alexis Adams, Oakland Mills Local Leadership Team. “We are very fortunate to be in a county with many resources, but the greatest resources of all are the residents within our community. We’re seeing people being empowered and mobilize themselves to build relationships with one another and solve the issues we face.”