August 5, 2008

Grant Will Help Speed English Learning for Sparta Youth

By Autumn Grooms, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Aug. 5--SPARTA, Wis. -- Latino children in the Monroe County seat will receive additional academic support when they return to school this fall through an Immigrant Children and Youth Grant awarded to the school district.

Afterschool programming offered through the Sparta Boys and Girls Club will focus on homework assistance for immigrant students in all grades who have attended school for less than three full academic years, said Amy Blackburn, executive director of the Sparta clubs. "Our short-term goal is to close the gap between these students and their peers," Blackburn said. "I think this support will ensure greater academic success."

Sparta schools received $37,187 for 2008-09 to enhance instruction for its growing Latino population, said Peggy Jadack, the district's director of pupil services. Other school and community initiatives were started with grant money received from the same fund late in the 2007-08 school year, Jadack said.

Immigrant Children and Youth Grants are a set-aside allocation from the state's No Child Left Behind Title III federal grant to support academic achievement for English-language learners. Wisconsin grant recipients in 14 school districts and two cooperative educational service agencies will share $868,316 for 2008-09.

By partnering with the Sparta Boys and Girls Club, the school district is able to reach more kids more efficiently, Jadack said. The district has more than 80 English language-learning students, more than 20 of whom are considered immigrants, she said.

"The grant has been a nice help for us because it is helping get the kids some additional services after school and during the summer to help with English language acquisition," Jadack said. "It (also) is nice to have the community partnership."

Bilingual staff will work "to help students with homework and school needs," Blackburn said. "We will also try to fill the gap with Latino parents and the school district, as many do not speak English and homework can be quite daunting."

The grant also allowed for a summer program that included all of Sparta's Latino youth population and their parents. Tutoring was available, and fun nights were held to create a community atmosphere.

Linda Mull oversees the program as the Boys and Girls Club Latino outreach coordinator.

Autumn Grooms can be reached at (608) 791-8424 or [email protected]


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