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Belk Foundation Expands Summer Learning Opportunities in Charlotte to Increase K-3 Student Achievement

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CHARLOTTE, March 19, 2015 - The Belk Foundation, one of the Southeast's leading family foundations, has awarded an education grant that will enable BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) to provide academic and social enrichment opportunities to at-risk students in grades K-3 this summer.

The $75,000 grant will support BELL's school-based summer programs delivered in partnership with Devonshire Elementary, Westerly Hills Academy, and Huntingtowne Farms Elementary. Through these and other partnerships across Charlotte, BELL aims to serve more than 2,500 students - called "scholars" in BELL programs - this summer.

"This support by the Belk Foundation is so important to our work in Charlotte," said Jerri Haigler, BELL's Executive Director for the Carolinas. "These are scholars who lose ground academically every summer - particularly in reading proficiency -- because they often lack structured enrichment activities. Our program makes a big difference for scholars and families."

During the summer months, many children - especially children from low-income families - lack quality learning experiences and lose academic skills over the school break. Such losses - two months or more 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.

BELL, one of the nation's leading nonprofit providers of quality expanded learning programs for children in grades K-8, has developed a summer learning model that emphasizes literacy and math instruction in the morning, followed by a healthy lunch, physical activity and enrichment activities and field trips in science, art and music. The model is designed to serve students who are performing below grade level and who stand to benefit the most from summer learning.

In 2014, BELL served nearly 900 scholars in the summer - approximately 600 in partnership with Project LIFT, a public/private partnership working to raise the academic performance of students living in Charlotte's West End, and 300 in other schools. Assessment data showed that students who were underperforming at the start of the summer gained an average grade-equivalency of 2.6 months in reading skills over the course of the 5-6 week programs.

The Belk Foundation, based in Charlotte, is a family foundation that supports public education by strengthening teachers and school leaders and by ensuring that students are achieving at or above grade level by the end of third grade. The family that created the Belk department store chain established the foundation in 1888. The Belk Foundation has been a strong supporter of the work of BELL over the years.

* "Underperforming" scholars score in the lowest quartile on STAR assessments at the start of the summer: Urgent Intervention (1-10th percentile) or Intervention (11-25th percentile)

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