By Matthew Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing
A new federal grant will enable USF College of Education students to provide year-round tutoring at no cost to K-8 youth participating in the St. Petersburg Police Athletic League (PAL).
As part of a larger grant awarded to the City of St. Petersburg Police Department, PAL received around $68,000 to hire eight tutors, four days a week, during the school year and over the summer. The tutors, who will come from USF and other higher education institutions, will also help develop curriculum and assist certified teachers.
Funds will also go towards a summer enrichment program that will be developed by College of Education faculty and doctoral students, to ensure kids maintain their academic achievement levels year-round.
“For some students, academic achievement levels go down during the summer, a phenomenon called summer slide. This can especially impact kids from lower income families,” said AnnMarie Gunn, associate professor of literacy education on the St. Petersburg campus. “A lot of the research shows the slide has to do with limited access to learning materials and educators during the summer that this program will provide.”
Around 75 children who attend PAL, which seeks to inspire hope and transform lives of at-risk youth, will take part in the summer program.
“This grant will enable us to hire tutors that will provide critical hands-on learning opportunities for our kids after school and during the summer months,” said Heather Robb, director of PAL. “Kids will get additional help with challenging material and homework, especially in literacy and math, and receive instruction in small group and one-on-one settings.”
The free tutoring continues a partnership between USF St. Petersburg campus education faculty and the PAL program.
At the early outset of the pandemic, AnnMarie Gunn and Susan Bennett, an associate professor of literary studies on the St. Petersburg campus, worked with PAL to provide more than 400 multicultural children’s books to 45 local families. The initiative encouraged children who attend PAL to read, discuss social issues with their families and connect with their communities.
“We have had a very productive relationship with PAL for more than four years now that has resulted in a robust literacy program, including art-inspired literacy, field trips for youth, greater engagement between kids in the community and police officers through books and enhanced overall literacy in the community,” Bennett said.
Along with providing free tutoring and summer academic programs, the federal grant will assist local youth leagues in sports such as football, softball, soccer, track & field and more. Funds will be used to offset the teams’ costs and assist with the fees for youth who may not be able to afford to participate.
The federal grant totaling around $174,000 was announced by St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and Police Chief Anthony Holloway before a youth baseball game at the Wildwood Park Sports Complex on February 22. The funding grant comes from the Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which focuses on youth and community engagement.