A nonprofit founded in 1992

Parental involvement is key to success

Damion Bishop and daughter

When Ta-niya Bishop dances on stage, it can best be described as joy in motion. She moves to the rhythms effortlessly, in sync with the music and her peers, beaming with happiness and pride. Smiles radiated as the second grader and her dance partners performed in front of parents and teachers during BellXcel's Black Heritage Celebration.

“They rocked the house!” said Ta-niya’s father Damieon Bishop, who proudly posted a video of her performance on Facebook. “At the end of the day, I can’t help my daughter dance. I can’t sing and dance. It was a big ole surprise. They took their time rehearsing.”

Eight-year-old Ta-niya has been enrolled at BellXcel Afterschool at Arundel Elementary School in Baltimore since the first grade. Through the program’s hands-on academic and enrichment activities, she has maintained her solid math abilities, and is slowly improving her reading and writing skills.

“She’s a little shy at first, but then she slowly comes out of her shell,” said Janine Tucker, Academic Teacher. “She has a very creative imagination and likes to do things off the top of her mind. Now, we are teaching her how to transmit her wonderful imagination into writing and onto paper.”

On stage, Ta-niya transforms from a shy scholar into a confident one. As is the case for many scholars, BellXcel's enrichment activities serve as a channel for creative expression, often leading to improvements in their social-emotional skills.  “Ta-niya performs with open arms. Her personality is very unique,” said Mr. Bishop. “She has grown more confident. Now, she will disagree with anyone, including me, and show you if she feels she is right.”

Every Monday through Thursday, while he works as a custodian at the Baltimore Aquarium, Mr. Bishop counts on BellXcel to provide academic support in areas Ta-niya needs help in. He is in the process of moving farther away from the school, but has committed to continuing her enrollment in the program.

“Oh man, BellXcel is very helpful for single fathers like me because it keeps us involved. At the end of the day, she comes home and explains what she’s learning,” he said with a smile. “They have projects like the Black History Celebration that make it convenient for me to get involved.”

To illustrate how much Ta-niya enjoys the program, Mr. Bishop shared a revealing anecdote. “I had to take her out of BellXcel one day. Something came up. I said, you have two choices Ta-niya. You can either go home or go back to BellXcel. She said, 'Oh, I want to go back to Bell!'”

Parental engagement is a key variable in BellXcel' equation for scholar success. It helps foster BELL’s core values beyond the school walls and into the household. “If fathers are not involved, that’s a problem. It's important to show kids that you care about their education,” Mr. Bishop says.

Dedicated staff like Alisa Clea Program Assistant, engage with Mr. Bishop and other parents even on non-BellXcel days. Ms. Clea texts and calls parents, keeping them in the loop about their child’s progress. Often, she helps busy parents fill out paperwork and applications to make sure their children are getting the most out of the program.

“Ms. Clea will say ‘Ta-niya did this and she took time on it, so now it’s time for you to put in,’” says Mr. Bishop.