New funding for youth programs aims to close achievement gap
COLUMBIA - A Columbia organization is receiving city funds for the first time, with the aim of providing food, transportation and education outside of the class room.
Grade A Plus Incorporated is one of seven organizations to get part of more than $252,000 approved by the City Council Monday as part of its annual social services spending.
The executive director of Grade A Plus Incorporated, Janice Dawson-Threat, said the money will go towards paid staff, programs and expansion.
"We're just really excited about being admitted into this process with the city," she said. "Hopefully we can, in the near future, go to expanded schedule, serve more youth and find more people willing to work with children in the community."
One of the goals for the funding was to close the achievement gap. In 2016, white Columbia Public Schools students had a graduation rate 11 percent higher than black CPS students.
"Our educators today, and those who are working with young people, really need to understand the differences in working with these populations, and then how to create an environment that motivates them, engages them and motivates them to thrive," Dawson-Threat said.
Second Ward Council member Michael Trapp said the council wanted to "address the underlying issue of academic achievement."
"Education is necessary to achieve many of the goals that kids have," he said.
Dawson-Threat said Grade A Plus makes sure students get one-on-one attention in math and reading.
"It makes a difference in their learning, their studies, their focus and their sense of confidence," she said.