BUFFALO, NY - There is a program inside three Buffalo elementary schools that is making a difference. It is called Project SOAR.
Cradle Beach is working with Buffalo Public schools to help students succeed in academics and in life-skills.
"We're literally changing the lives of kids futures," said Cradle Beach CEO Tim Boling. "We wanted to do something to help outside the camp with Buffalo's poor graduation rate.
Cradle Beach designed Project SOAR after researching from programs around the country that have a 95% or higher high school graduation rate. Students are selected at the end of second grade and begin the program in the third grade based on key areas, "attendance, if they're failing ELA or Math, any one of those three by 9th grade, they have about a 75% chance of dropping out of high school," said Boling.
Cradle Beach has made a 10-year commitment to the program. It is currently "not" funded by Buffalo Schools. In order for it to expand, there is hope that the district will contribute to a program that is working and helping students achieve better grades and test scores. Some of the students who were once in special-education classes have moved on to regular classrooms. There are other students no longer in Project SOAR because they tested out and are now attending City Honors.
Currently foundations help financing the innovative program that uses Americorps workers to assist students as mentors in the schools.
Lovejoy Discovery, Lorraine Academy and Southside Elementary.
Besides working with the students on academics, Project SOAR mentors are helping students on an emotional and social level. "Our mentors go in in the morning. They do anything from small group work, to working one-on-one with students, catching up with homework. Maybe the student is lagging a little behind in math, we're able to supplement the teacher and pull the kid aside and and see why they are behind," said Nick Schifano, director of Project SOAR.
Parents are impressed. Kerry Emminger described the program as "amazing." Her 9-year old son's grades have jumped double digits since he joined Project SOAR. "It's actually given me confidence that my child and the other children that are part of it are going to be somebody because they are getting that chance, so its very impressive" she said.
"We're trying to create leaders and we want people that are committed to the community and committed to learning," said the program director.