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Omaha Schools Foundation: OPS District Schools Host Power Scholars Academy

Posted on July 16, 2015

In a sense, the Power Scholars Academy is just what it sounds like: A program designed to create more powerful, effective scholars during the boundaries of the academic school year. That's why the Chicago-based YMCA and the Boston nonprofit BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) are pairing with school districts around the country to help students learn effectively during the summer months and bring those lessons back to school with them in August.

"Summer learning is one of the most effective ways to improve student achievement," says 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 year, the Power Scholars program added seven cities to their list, and Omaha is one of them.

The Power Scholars Academy is based on a tried-and-true method of education studied by BELL: Operations are 3.5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 6 weeks. One of the benefits for young learners is that their philosophy includes combining summer school programming with enrichment activities that are more reminiscent of a fun summer camp, rather than sitting in a classroom. It's dynamic, fun, and interesting.

Across the country, the Power Scholars Academy is offered free-of-charge in local public schools akin to the Omaha Public School District. The goal? To make the achievement gap smaller, especially for disadvantaged youth. During the summer months, students without opportunities for learning experiences can experience "learning losses" and struggle to catch up again once school starts. "The Power Scholars Academy pairs BELL's expertise in delivering high-quality programming and generating academic impact with the Y's expertise in enrichment and community engagement. Amazing things happen for scholars and families when we leverage each others' strengths and work together to narrow the achievement gap in our communities," says Gueye.

And according to the World-Herald, Omaha is among three cities piloting the Imagine Science program to bring STEM education to the Power Scholars Academy. For example, last week, students in the program participated in a mobile science lab's visit to OPS school McMillan Magnet Center. During the lab, students examined an earthworm, flowers, and plant leaves under a digital microscope probe connected to a computer. Other activities include financial literacy lessons, basketball games in the McMillan Magnet Center gym, and field trips to UNL for college and career preparation. The lead for Power Scholars in Omaha, DeJuan Reddick, told the World-Herald that Omaha is the only participating city where the program is focused on middle school.

As the Power Scholars Academy grows, the OPS district will continue to be the perfect partner for assisting these students in their education, even during the summer months. We applaud all those involved, and look forward to seeing the results of this summer's pilot program take shape during the next school year!