A Kentucky-based after-school program is receiving national recognition for its work to improve students’ literacy.
This week, the Afterschool Alliance presented the Redhound Enrichment after-school program with the second Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award, which carries a $10,000 prize, at the group’s annual convention in Orlando, Fla.
The Redhound Enrichment program is open to K-12 students in the Corbin Independent School District in Corbin, Ky. Priority enrollment is based on student needs, and the program serves nearly a third of the students in the district each day.
“The award is really an affirmation of things that we do in the program to increase and improve students’ literacy skills,” said Karen West, the program’s executive director and the district’s curriculum supervisor. “We do a lot in terms of approaching whole-child education, and we use an embedded structure where the students are practicing literacy skills in all that they do.”
West says the money from the award will fund additional training and support for teachers and help the program to expand its offerings.
Redhound Enrichment is a 21st Century Community Learning Center, so it’s supported by a 21st Century Grant. The program also receives local funding, corporate sponsorship, and parent fees. It began in 1991 and has grown from serving 100 students to serving 1,300 students.
For kids in grades K-8, students have an option to enroll in a formal program.
“What we do particularly [in] grades K-6 is very targeted intervention,” said West. “We don’t work with just students who are at-risk. We serve students of all abilities, so we have students who are struggling readers, and we have some who are very advanced readers. The model we use is really looking at what each child needs individually and providing literacy instruction that’s a good sound support to help that child grow and progress.”
West attributes a lot of the program’s success to staying in close contact with the teachers who work with these students during the school day. Some of the her staff works a split shift, spending half of their day with the district and the other half with Redhound Enrichment.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” said West. “The most fundamental piece of our success is communication with the school-day instructors, so we know what the child’s needs are, and we are providing the support they need outside of the school day, the additional interventions, enrichment, so that they are doing even better in the classroom. We don’t operate on separate curricula. We are working with the school to enhance what they are doing and expand it.”
Redhound Enrichment also offers a separate program to kids in grades 7-12, which provides drop-in services. This open-door program is housed in the high school media center, which West says looks more like a Barnes & Noble than a traditional school library. It’s open every day after school until 5:30 p.m.
The programs are staffed by a mix of certified teachers, paraprofessionals, student teachers, high school students, volunteers, and others with youth development degrees.
“Ultimately, there is a certified teacher who has oversight into what’s happening, and they’re looking at lesson plans and pulling everything together,” said West.
Since the districtwide implementation of Redhound Enrichment, West says, the Corbin district has been one of the top five performers in the state.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.