Power Scholars program combines learning with summer camp to prevent summer learning loss

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- While some children are making a splash in the swimming pool this summer, many students from Johnson and DeZavala elementary schools and KIPP Liberation school have jumped right back into the classroom in hopes of stemming summertime loss of math and reading skills.

The free Power Scholars program funded by the YMCA, United Way and private donors seeks to keep the math and literacy skills of underprivileged students moving along, combining a camp-like atmosphere of songs, arts and crafts with classroom instruction.

The six week, seven-hour-a-day program tests students before and after the program's run to track whether students not only retain but also gain learning, with an added benefit of boosting self confidence and social skills.

"Some of them come here so willingly because they need a break from where they're coming from. When they get here, it's unconditional everything," said Johnson Elementary teacher and Power Scholars instructor Troas Jones. "Whatever we can do to improve on you socially, academic, then we do."

More than just serious studies, the program allows students to spend the afternoon in enrichment programs including music, field trips, dance and martial arts.

"It's kind of disguised learning and fun...all the testing and all that stuff is my job, so I worry about all the logistical stuff. The kids just get to come here, be kids and have fun," said Korey Byrd of YMCA of Greater Houston.

Organizers say that over the six weeks, most students pick up two to three months of classroom learning. With that kind of success, the YMCA and the United Way hope to raise $1 million to keep Power Scholars free and expand the program to 10 sites by 2020.

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