A nonprofit founded in 1992

BELL and the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence forge partnership To prevent summer learning loss in Wilmington, NC

WILMINGTON, N.C., May 14, 2014 - BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) today announced a new partnership with the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence (BRC) that will bring high-quality expanded learning experiences to 60 students in Wilmington this summer.

The new program, which partner organizations hope to expand in the future, is designed to eliminate summer learning loss for at-risk kids on the North Side and reduce crime and violence by increasing the amount of learning time and structured activity for rising 7th and 8th grade students.

"We are thrilled to partner with BELL as we work to close the achievement gap and provide our youth with increased options over the summer, which we also hope will result in a safer community in downtown Wilmington where our kids live," said Jana Jones Halls, Executive Director of the Blue Ribbon Commission. "To prevent crime, kids need to be supported throughout the year and this program will provide invaluable support to the students who need it most."

BELL Summer begins each day with small group literacy and math instruction in the morning, followed by hands-on art and science projects and physical fitness activities in the afternoon. Several community-based organizations have partnered with the BRC to provide afternoon programs for the students, who are called "scholars" in the program.

Kids Making It will introduce the scholars to the craft of woodworking, while Dreams of Wilmington will provide literary, visual, multimedia and performing arts instruction. Cape Fear Soccer Club will offer sports instruction, instructors from NC Cooperative Extension and the offer a gardening and nutritious cooking class, Wilmington Health Access for Teens (WHAT) will provide a class on positive social skills and healthy relationships, and Grow By Design, a local STEM based engineering program.

BELL and the community organizations share the goal of narrowing the student achievement gap. Studies show that a lack of summer learning activities among disadvantaged youth, such as camp, travel and visits to libraries and museums, cause a loss of skills that accumulates each year and widens the achievement gap. The lack of summer learning programming in low-income communities can cause students to fall two to three years behind their middle- and upper-income peers.

"BELL Summer helps close the achievement gap and bring more opportunities to the students who really need them," said Ashleigh Snyder, Executive Director of BELL. "In Wilmington this summer, we will deliver a creative, fun and engaging summer program that not only improves academic achievements, but provides the structure and support Wilmington kids need to stay away from crime and violence."

The BELL Summer program will operate a full school day (8:00 a.m. to 3:00p.m.), four days per week, beginning on June 23 and extending through July 24th. The program will be hosted at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy but open to rising 7th and 8th grade students that attend other middle schools if they live within the Youth Enrichment Zone (YEZ), a mapped out area in downtown Wilmington that is served by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Many community members played key roles in bringing BELL Summer to Wilmington with their generous financial support, which includes several donations from individuals and businesses as a result of a fundraising breakfast that was hosted by the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce in January. Other major funders to the program include donations from Wilmington Attorney George Rountree, John Monteith from Monteith Construction Corp., PPD, Cape Fear Future, The Wilmington Chamber Education Foundation, and grant funding from the Cape Fear Memorial Foundation.

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