Since Indiana Kids was established 12 years ago, Boys & Girls Club of Seymour members have been pre- and post-tested in English and math.
Early on, however, the club wasn’t as intentional with promoting kids to participate.
That changed last year when 40 kids were involved, and they increased in math by 36.7 percent and reading by 45.2 percent.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery
In the summer, Unit Director Jeff Joray attended training and learned a lot more about the program.
Since pretesting started Oct. 1, more than 150 kids are going through the program.
Executive Director Ryon Wheeler credits the big jump to the Indiana Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs allowing the club to include the Indiana Kids registration form with membership forms filled out at the start of the school year in August.
While an increase in participants is what Wheeler wanted, that means more volunteers are needed to serve as tutors and help kids with their reading and math skills. That way, the test scores keep increasing.
Tutors can be any age and must pass a background check. They are asked to do at least a semester commitment, which is five months.
Currently, a handful of adults and Seymour Middle School student government members serve as tutors on a regular basis.
“We are trying to grow that to get more help in here,” Wheeler said. “The more we get, the better. The more caring adults these people have to help, the better.”
Whether it’s someone with expertise in science, technology, engineering and math, someone who wants to help a kid with basic English or math or a member of a school or community group looking for service hours, they are welcome to volunteer.
“The main thing is, sometimes with these kids, you’re just building relationships,” Wheeler said. “Some of them just want to chat with you.”
Indiana Kids is a statewide after-school tutoring program aimed at helping children increase the quality and quantity of homework they complete and help improve student behavior and attitudes about school and learning.
The Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement are utilized. Wheeler said those are true testing mechanisms for reading and math that determine a student’s achievement level — above or below his or her grade level.
Students then do 15 45-minute education sessions and 10 career sessions.
“That gets you at the midway mark to see where they are,” Wheeler said.
They do 15 more education sessions before the post-test.
“If the kids are not at grade level by that post-test, you’ll give them 10 more education sessions to try to get them back to grade level,” he said.
Not every kid achieves grade level because some are really far behind, Wheeler said.
“The great part about this is years ago, if a kid was above grade level, they couldn’t participate in the program,” he said. “Last year, they made the change that if you are above grade level, you can still participate.”
Wheeler said he has seen kids at grade level excel.
“I’ve seen fifth-graders go to college reading levels, so it’s pretty impressive,” he said. “It’s not just for kids who are behind. That’s our main focus because we want kids to get ahead, but some kids who are at grade level can get ahead, so it’s really good.”
All of the club’s programs have an educational component, so they count toward the Indiana Kids requirements.
It starts with homework time with tutors from 3 to 4 p.m. weekdays. Joray keeps track of what students are reading and what kind of math they are doing during those sessions.
“I don’t think we do anything special other than teach these kids intentionality and repetition, and we meet kids where they are,” Wheeler said.
Whether a kid reads something online, a book or a comic book, it’s helping them, he said.
“If a kid is struggling in reading … let them read something because if kids can’t learn to read, they can’t read to learn,” he said. “Math problems now are so much more word problems. We have to really focus on (reading).”
Kids then participate in programs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Among the programs are STEM, cooking, robotics and three-dimensional printing. A Bible study club also has been offered.
“Although it’s got a Bible component to it, kids are reading, so we’ve gotten very creative in making sure all of our programming wraps around (Indiana Kids),” Wheeler said.
“We’ve got so many programs that build into it, so we’re not sitting up here teaching kids, ‘Here’s the periodic table,’” he said. “We’re letting them work on what they have and then try to do fun programs to keep it exciting.”
The hope is that Indiana Kids translates to students’ schoolwork and standardized test scores. Wheeler said the club is working with Jackson County United Way and other youth-serving organizations to get more information to see if that is happening.
With Joray serving on the Seymour Community School Corp. board of trustees, he has asked principals to let him know if a kid is having an issue with a particular subject so he or she can receive help at the club.
Deidra Byarlay also said she hopes to see the program translate to success at school for kids.
She began as an intern at the Boys & Girls Club in October and helped administer pretesting. She said she’s excited to see how the kids progress by the time post-testing rolls around.
“I hope that it helps kids advance to where they need to be,” she said. “Some kids that are maybe below average now, as we work with them and try to help better their skills, maybe when they post-test, their scores will be a little bit higher.”
The environment at the club is different than being at school, and Byarlay sees that as a benefit.
“Here, it’s not as strenuous. It’s just, ‘Do your best and we’ll go from there,’” she said. “At school, it’s like, ‘OK, I have to get this grade. I want this grade. I have to get it.’”
She said Indiana Kids is an important program and wants to see it succeed.
“Being a mom myself and having kiddos myself, I think it’s important,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I wish my kids could take this test to see where they test.”
Since she has had a good experience working with kids at the club, Byarlay encourages other adults to help out by sharing their skills and knowledge.
“It’s rewarding to see the expressions on the kids’ faces,” she said. “Some kids really struggle and then they start working with you and they are like, ‘Oh, somebody cares. Somebody is taking time to work with me. Somebody actually cares.’ There are just some kids that need that extra boost, that extra confidence.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
For information about the Indiana Kids program at the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour or to volunteer as a tutor, call 812-522-2434, email [email protected] or [email protected] or stop by the club, 950 N. O’Brien St., Seymour.