Students reap benefits from 21st Century grant

Sep. 10, 2013 @ 10:13 AM

Thomasville City Schools secured a key source of federal funding that will benefit hundreds of students through after-school programs.
The TCS Board of Education at its monthly meeting on Sept. 3 unanimously voted to accept a 21st Century grant, injecting more than $1 million of federal funding into the school system over the next four years. A majority of the funds will go toward after-school initiatives, but a new change in the grant allows for a substantial amount of the money to be used during the school day as well.
"We're very excited about the fact that they have trusted us with these funds because we have been good stewards of money in the past," said  Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin. "I'm sure that played a role. TCS has always been a supporter of extracurricular activities where students can get additional support outside of the school day."
Karen Biscoe, a Career and Technical Education teacher at Thomasville Middle School, composed the grant application for the school system, which has received the 21st Century funding for more than two decades. Dozens of after-school programs are made possible through the grant, including tutoring, the Young Marines and a variety of social groups.
"This is our first new grant in four years," Biscoe said. "We have over 500 students who use these after-school programs. We were awarded one of the few grants in this area. All four city schools will benefit from this funding."
TCS will receive $1,269,807 from the grant over the next four school years. TCS gets $373,472 in the first two years, $298,778 in 2015-16 and $224,083 in 2016-17. For the first time, 10 percent of the grant each year can be used for programs such as interventions and remediation during the school day.
"What this grant will do is bridge the schools and the community," said Biscoe. "We will have an extended day and year menu, as well as expand learning opportunities in a safe, drug free environment. We want to improve academic achievement based on common core as well as enhance the social, physical and mental well being of the student."
Over the next four years, site coordinators at all four city schools will  look at ways to improve after-school tutoring and implement  activities based on STEM standards, Biscoe said. The after-school programs run from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday  with more activities scheduled for various weekends. 
"A lot of students don't have places to go when we're not in school" Biscoe said. "There are times when we can let the students go places and do things. We're looking at project-based learning activities. We want our students to expand and learn from a different angle beside just sitting in a classroom."
Funding from 21st Century grants originate from the Department of Education and are passed through the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Goals of the grant are to improve academic achievement, enhance academic performance for students during the school day, increase family literacy and English proficiency and strengthen ties between school and the community.
"It really is important for students to have those opportunities outside of the school day to extend their learning and also learn new things," said Pitre-Martin. "That's why these programs are so critically important. This grant is an avenue to fund that."
Initiatives made possible from 21st Century grant funding include the Cardinal Club at Thomasville Primary School, TMS debate team, parent information sessions at all four schools, SOAR, a credit recovery program at Thomasville High School to help reduce the dropout rate, and music, science and book clubs.  Funds also will be used for TCS staff to purchase school supplies and books. 

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or