Young students are getting the reading support they need at an earlier age so that they can flourish as kids, and later in the life, thanks to support from The Amy Helpenstell Foundation Fund. Spring Forward Learning Center, a school-based after school program, pairs educators with at-risk students. Today, the nonprofit serves 400 students at five elementary and two junior high schools in the Rock Island–Milan School District.
Spring Forward is in its final year of a three-year, $45,000 grant from the Foundation Fund. The program was started in 2007 by Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church as a safe place for kids to congregate after school. Its focus and programming has shifted since then in response to growing community needs, Executive Director Dan McNeil said.
"This grant has been critical for us because it supports our sustainability," McNeil said. "It allows us to focus on programming and we don't have to spend as much time scratching and clawing for additional funding sources each year. We are incredibly grateful to The Amy Helpenstell Foundation Fund for being a true partner with us in our efforts."
All of Spring Forward's programs are based at the schools, enriching the lives of young students who may be falling behind in their reading. The program, McNeil said, focuses on the literacy of kindergarten through third graders. The students participate in small group tutoring, and are offered a meal. "This program offers kids a safe, nurturing environment after school," he said.
The program is different from others because of its intense focus on reading. The children who are eligible to participate are identified by teachers or parents. Spring Forward employs more than 25 part-time employees. More and more families in the community have started taking advantage of the program.
"It's absolutely a need in this community," he said. "Our goal is to have all children reading at a third grade level—that's extremely important to us."
The organization's needs align perfectly with the hopes, goals and guidelines established by the Foundation Fund's Advisory Committee in several ways, including meeting community needs, the funds being used to the best advantage to serve people most in need, and achieving overall success because of the grant. Since the start of the grant, the program has seen greater need and has been able to respond to that need.
"The Amy Helpenstell Foundation Fund has been a significant contributor in our organization's growth. Their board understands the work we do. We've seen the kids we serve grow in remarkable, meaningful ways. And that's because of the legacy Amy left behind."
Learn more about The Amy Helpenstell Foundation Fund, and the fund's priorities, by clicking here.