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On the Upside: December

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December Looking Up Grant Recipient: Summerbridge

Across the country, middle school systems strive to educate our children and prepare them for the challenges of high school and beyond. One common problem in many schools, however, is the poor ratio of teachers to students. While some students may flourish in classrooms of 30 or more, many kids need more personal attention than a teacher can afford to give in that setting. It can be easy for some students, especially those working at a slightly slower pace or lacking the confidence to assert their needs, to get lost in the noise. Kate Lindsay, Executive Director at Summerbridge Louisville, seeks to remedy this. Summerbridge is a six-week, small classroom summer school helping these high-need, high-potential middle school students. They aim to “bridge” the gap they experience and give them both the confidence and academic guidance they need to succeed in their regular schooling. 

How will this month’s grant be used?


The funds from this month’s Looking Up Grant will go toward expanding the extracurricular offerings at Summerbridge. While Kate collaborates with many other non-profits to offer things like STEM workshops, anti-bullying training, and a Career Day, some extracurriculars still come with costs, which this grant will help to defray. As Kate says, some of these students lead “harder lives” than other kids their age. They don’t get exposure to many of these topics in their normal day-to-day, so these extracurriculars serve the important function of broadening their world and showing them new options for things they can do. Perhaps the most impactful result of these extracurriculars is an increase in confidence that comes with finding a new passion. This confidence teaches the kids to think bigger than they may otherwise and to take advantage of opportunities.

The Word

My mother recently retired from a long and wonderful teaching career. For many of those years, she closed her emails with a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Regardless of whether Einstein actually said this, the message still holds value. Personalized education can open up potential in students who may not naturally flourish in their regular schooling. In any educational system, there are certainly efficiencies to be had by universal standards, and the reality is that budgetary restraints often work against the desire to customize education for individual kids. Some will excel with the system as it is, but a lot of potential can also be left behind. Summerbridge, currently housed at Louisville Collegiate School, provides a way for kids lagging in the current system to not only catch up but also develop the confidence that may help them stay involved in their success when the school year resumes.

They select up to 50 kids for a six-week summer course wherein small classes of five or six kids are taught by college students, who are overseen by certified teachers. These classes are broken up by skill level, so kids in a class will generally move at the same pace, but that skill level is not disclosed to the students. A typical day involves a morning with 90 minutes each of math and language arts guided by the JCPS curriculum. After lunch, time is spent on extracurriculars intended to grow and diversify academic interests, boost confidence, and build other skills that will be useful in a regular school setting. Amazingly, Summerbridge also provides bus transportation, breakfast, and lunch to its students. 

Students are selected through a rigorous process, which includes a thorough 14-page application and requires not only a demonstration of academic need but also financial need, family buy-in, a multi-year commitment, and actual desire by the kid.

 Summerbridge targets middle school kids because, as Kate says, this is the time that “catching up” can be most effective. It is starting to become apparent which students need this customized assistance but not yet too late to get them up to speed. An extra boost at this stage can set them up for long-term success.

A Good Thought from Adam

The charity evident during the holiday season is a great thing. People commit more funds to their favorite non-profit and sometimes spend some time at a soup kitchen or volunteering for any number of helpful activities around their communities. Without taking anything away from these wonderful seasonal commitments, perhaps take advantage of that seasonal spirit to cement something longer term. If your preferred activity is a monetary donation, set up an automatic monthly amount. If you like to volunteer, maybe sign up for a monthly shift doing whatever it is you like to do. The seasonal generosity is excellent, but it can be easy to lose track of the fact that need exists year-round. Let helping be a lifestyle.

For more good thoughts from Adam follow us on Twitter @ontheupsidepod

About On the Upside

Mission: On the Upside exists to show off the great people doing great things in their communities and to prove that, even in troubled times, it’s easy to find people helping.

Any good company is a blend of its owners personalities. Adam Watson, one of the owners of Against the Grain Brewery, has always brought optimism and a desire to find and create good in the community. As a brewery, it’s easy to show off how fun we can be, but in reality, there’s a lot more to us than just a great party. We are also deeply passionate about our people and our community. Adam has always kept Against the Grain involved in local charities and associating with people making a positive impact on the world around them. On the Upside exists as a platform to show off this part of who we are. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. Our success as a brewery has given us a valuable platform from which to be heard, and with great power comes great responsibility. Time to hold up our heroes!

Onward and upward!
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