Editor’s Note: Part of a series about the “Our Children. Our Success.” campaign. The RISE Foundation is a nonprofit that’s trying to change young lives incrementally, with a mix of incentives and mentorship, in a program that’s focused for the moment on the 38126 ZIP code but which may grow beyond that soon.
The foundation’s Goal Card program targets students in fifth grade through high school, helping them reach academic and personal goals. It does so by incentivizing them around grades, conduct and school attendance through an accumulation of points, which can be redeemed for items they might not otherwise be able to afford.
Students earn points for reaching their goals that are redeemable for rewards every nine-week grading period, or they can bank those points for bigger rewards later. And it’s getting results.
Participants in the 2011-2012 academic year saw a 30 percent overall improvement in their GPAs.
The Goal Card is a key piece of the work of RISE, which is a partner along with several groups in the “Our Children. Our Success.” community campaign. That campaign, which also is being supported by The Daily News and other groups like Literacy Mid-South, is an attempt to harness a community-wide effort toward investment in the lives, education and well-being of area children.
“Goal Card is an incentive-based program that RISE developed to encourage young people to take advantage of educational opportunities,” said RISE president and CEO Linda Williams. “And we’ve integrated financial literacy into the work we’re doing with that. The points can be redeemed just like money for neat things they want – it could be electronics, MP3 players, anything.
“My staff also goes on site into the schools to do lunch-and-learn sessions around financial literacy and encouraging them to do the very best they can in schools. The best way to help people make better choices is to help them set goals. So we start with them young on the importance of this.”
The program is currently in place at Bellevue Jr. High School, Booker T. Washington High School, Cummings Elementary School, LaRose Elementary School and Vance Middle School. International Paper, whose employees show up at the schools, also supports it and present real-world examples of successful adults the children can look up to.
“This whole concept of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ – it really does,” Williams said. “International Paper has employees who come out on report card day, and that’s that caring adult who is involved who actually sits down with these young people, goes over the report card and gives them kudos and points when they’ve done well in an area. But also they focus in on those areas where they can improve and help them set goals for the next period.
“If you look at all the research, the one key thing that really makes a difference in a child’s life is the involvement of a caring adult.”