The Community Foundation of Broward launched a middle school initiative five years ago called ‘School Is Cool.’ It was a pilot program that targeted students who were not involved with clubs and friends or whose grades had started to slip. Until now, the foundation was only able to use the program with middle schoolers during the summer and after school.
But now the foundation has made the largest grant in its history, $3 million, to the Broward County School District to address isolation issues before students get to high school.
The grant will pay for two counselors each at 10 middle schools across the district. Broward’s school district is matching that money.
The vice president of grants and initiatives at the foundation, Sheri Brown, said before high school is the time to focus on troubled kids. Especially in light of the Parkland school shooting.
“There are red flags and warning signs that you can see as early as sixth grade: poor attendance, poor behavior and low performance in reading and math,” she said. “We don’t want anybody slipping through the cracks.”
Foundation President and CEO Linda Carter said the new counselors will focus on a student’s emotional and social needs, like one-on-one plans to increase engagement in the classroom, bullying issues and if problems at home are affecting their life at school.
“Individuals in the school, looking at it every day, tracking it, coming up with strategies to wrap around that student - it’s going to make all the difference in the world,” Carter said.
The 10 schools that will receive the counselors have not been selected yet by Broward Public Schools, but the grant allows for at least one middle school in each of the school districts to use the program.
Carter said it's middle schoolers who are the vulnerable ones, having to go through lots of change. But 'School Is Cool' addresses that too.
“The other exciting part of this program that the district will be implementing is that transition from elementary to middle, creating more of a bridge program,” Carter said. “Then from middle to high, creating a bridge program - to really help kids through that cycle.”
If the first three years of the program increases graduation rates at the high school level then the school district plans on implementing ’School Is Cool’ at all Broward County middle schools.