Lebanon — After a highly successful pilot program at the Lebanon Area Boys and Girls Club last spring, Hattie B. Stokes Elementary is making the Kids at the Table program its own and changing it into a full-fledged program, housed at the school five days a week.
In conjunction with The Caring Center, Hunger Initiative Team and the Boys and Girls Club, 44 Stokes students participated in the 10-week pilot program in the spring. The students were given a hot dinner and time for homework and to improve literacy and social skills.
And of those 44 students, 41 of them improved their reading level by at least one grade level.
“That’s incredible, remarkable results, especially for a program as short as 10 weeks,” said Jill Troha, area director for United Way of Central Indiana. “It was wildly successful. They started loving school. Their absence rate and incidences of behavioral outbursts decreased, their tardiness, turning in homework — everything got better.”
And now, Stokes Principal Kelly Sollman is hoping to continue those great results this year through a school-based KAT program. It runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and currently has an average of 55 students attending.
The program is by invitation. Sollman said she sent out 135 invitations this school year, but didn’t hear back from many of them. Invitations are sent out to students Sollman and the teachers feel would benefit most from KAT, typically from the 82 percent of the student body who are on free or reduced lunches.
Children still receive a free, hot dinner in the program, but Sollman wants to focus KAT more on improved literacy skills.
“Not only do we want to feed kids short term, but give them the tools to prepare to reduce poverty in the future,” Sollman said. “The only way out of generational poverty is programs like this that close the academic gap and provide nutrition. I definitely think KAT is an opportunity for kids to get that support and help they might not otherwise receive.”
Sollman’s short-term goal is to have 100 kids attending KAT on a daily basis. But, she said, she has more than 300 children who would benefit from the program — having homework, literacy and nutrition needs met.
For more of the story, see Friday’s Lebanon Reporter.