A nonprofit founded in 1992

BELL & YMCA of the USA to expand the Power Scholars Academy this summer

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BOSTON, - May 15, 2015 - YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) will continue their expansion of the Power Scholars Academy™ by launching the summer learning program in six new communities in 2015 and expanding the number of students served in existing community partnerships.

YMCA locations launching the program for the first time in 2015 include Boise, ID; Cincinnati, OH; Houston, TX; Louisville, KY; Omaha, NE; and St. Louis, MO. They will join existing programs in Hartford, CT; Orlando & the Clearwater area (Suncoast), FL; Montgomery, AL; Denver, CO; Washington, D.C.; St. Paul, MN, and San Antonio, TX.

More than a thousand elementary and middle school students around the country gained reading and math skills by participating in the Power Scholars Academy in 2014. Y-USA and BELL hope to boost that total to more than 2,000 students this year through the launch of the program in seven communities and its expansion in St. Paul, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Clearwater.

"As a country, we must do more to bridge gaps for all youth and put them on a path to succeed by implementing these types of programs that get results." said Jorge Perez, Vice President of Youth Development, Family Enrichment & Social Responsibility, YMCA of the USA. "It helps boost students' reading and math scores along with building their confidence. We're motivated by what the accomplishments of these children and excited about expanding the Academy this summer."

"Summer learning is one of the most effective ways to improve student achievement," said Dr. Tiffany Gueye, BELL's CEO. "Our partnership with the Y and its broad community-based network is helping us solve the challenge of scaling the impact of summer learning so that more scholars, schools and communities benefit. This is extraordinarily important work that these local YMCA's are taking on."

During the summer months, children who lack quality learning experiences tend to lose academic skills over the school break. Such losses - which equate to two months of a grade level each summer -- accumulate year after year. Studies have shown that by the end of eighth grade, summer learning loss can account for 66 percent of the achievement gap between low- and high-income students.

The Power Scholars Academy program, based on BELL's evidence-based model, blends rigorous, small-group academic instruction with high-quality camp-like enrichment and community engagement activities. It operates 6.5 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 6 weeks. Y staff and teachers from public schools, who are trained and supported by BELL, deliver the program at schools for students in grades K-8 who are struggling academically and who lack access to summer learning opportunities in their community.

At the start and end of the summer, students complete computer-adaptive STAR Reading and Math Assessments, which measure their academic progress against Common Core State Standards.

According to the 2014 Power Scholars Academy Impact Report, data from the STAR assessments show that while all students, on average, gained skills, the return on investment was greatest for scholars who were struggling academically and who had the most to gain. They achieved growth of 2.5 months of reading and math skills.

In addition to the academic impact of summer learning, students also strengthened their social skills, participated in physical activities and enjoyed nutritious meals. Nine out of 10 students increased their self-confidence, according to teachers, while nine out of 10 students improved their attitude toward school. The Power Scholars Academy helped nine out of 10 parents become more involved in their child's education.

The Power Scholars Academy is provided free of charge to families in the communities where it operates. Local Ys , Y-USA, BELL and public school partners share responsibility for program cost. The three nonprofit organizations raise philanthropic support from local and national sources, while school districts contribute facilities, utilities, meals, etc.

The Y and BELL have set a goal of serving more than 5,000 scholars by 2016.

To picture the Power Scholars Academy in action, click on over to our Power Scholars Photo Album.

ABOUT YMCA OF THE USA

The Y is one of the nation's leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Y's engage 22 million men, women and children - regardless of age, income or background - to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation's health and well-being and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.net.