Every Child / Every Promise
Ruben VanDasselaar, a sixth grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, used to go home after school and watch TV.
Then he signed up for the Learning Enrichment After-school Program (LEAP). Now he spends his after-school time zip lining at the Y Camp, creating and editing digital videos, and catching frogs and fish at the Mines of Spain.
Research shows that the conventional six-hour, 180-day school year may not be enough for students in many public schools. To address this shortcoming, Every Child/Every Promise, in strategic alliance with the Community Foundation, gathered a coalition of program providers and school leaders to expand learning time during the summer and regular school year. The result was an $850,000 21st Century Learning Grant awarded to the Dubuque Community School District to implement LEAP in Dubuque’s two Title I middle schools, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
The innovative LEAP initiative offers a wide array of three-hour after-school sessions. More than 20 area agencies and organizations partnered with the school district to present classes on topics ranging from cooking and song writing to jewelry making and leadership skills. The collaborative is now considering how to build on the success of LEAP and reach more students at other Dubuque schools.
Ruben says he has learned a lot from his after-school sessions—indeed, he’s happy to explain the finer points of zip line steering and how bugs can reveal water quality. But he needs just one word to describe his experience with LEAP: “Fun.”