January 17, 2018

On today's show we talk with Emily Hawkins, the Executive Director of Horizons Atlanta, a nonprofit working to close the opportunity gap for disadvantaged students.  Later in the show Kimberly O'Keefe and Chad Hawthorne bring us our Hero of the Week segment.

A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that works to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children in the United States, showed that only a fifth of low-income fourth-graders were reading at a proficient level, compared to more than half of high-income children. 

 What’s alarming for researchers is the fact that every subject in every class after third grade requires a textbook and critical-reading skills for full engagement in the classroom. Children already need to be able to read well in order to learn. That’s especially true as most high schools move to a college readiness curriculum, and post-high-school education becomes increasingly important for the job market. 

If you care about high school graduation, then you have to care about third grade reading. Because the research confirms that reading at grade level by the end of third grade is one the best predictors of whether kids will graduate from high school on time.

During their long summers, lots of children forget the lessons they learned in school. But these empty months pose an especially big academic hurdle for poor children...those whose families might not have time or money for camps or enrichment activities.

Many American children don’t have access to books, let alone shelves full of them. Two-thirds of the 16 million children living in poverty in this country don’t own any books, so when school lets out for the year, reading and learning does not just take a vacation, it deteriorates. This is known as “summer learning loss,” or “summer slide,” and it is disastrous, particularly for impoverished children. More than 80 percent of children living in poverty can lose one to three months of reading skills over the course of a summer. That is equivalent to three years of learning loss by the end of fifth grade.

And this brings us to this week's charity...Horizons Atlanta.

Emily Hawkins
Emily Hawkins

We recently visited Emily Hawkins, Executive Director of Horizons Atlanta, in her mobile office at the Georgia Tech Football Stadium…one of the organization's campus locations.  @horizonsATL

Horizons Atlanta is a transformational, community-centered, summer learning program proven to close the opportunity gap. They believe that every child in Atlanta, regardless of background, should have the same chance at making a positive impact on his or her community.

Horizons programs works to break these cycles by targeting low-income students and effectively addressing the achievement and opportunity gaps by engaging scholars throughout their primary and secondary school years, teaching them essential skills needed to succeed in school, and exposing them to a full-spectrum of life opportunities. 

Horizons Atlanta provides its core six-week summer learning programs and additional year-round support to disadvantaged metro Atlanta public school students who:

On today's Hero of the Week segment, we look back at a couple truly inspiring stories of kids making a difference.

Hailey Dawson
Hailey Dawson

The story comes from Henderson, Nevada.  Hailey Dawson is on a quest to throw out the first pitch at every major league ballpark. It's a big dream, considering Hailey is only 7 years old...and was born with Poland syndrome, a rare birth defect that caused her to be born without three fingers on her right hand. She uses a special 3-D-printed hand that was developed by engineers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Hailey is a lifelong baseball fan who taught herself how to throw using the robotic hand. She has been on the pro circuit since 2015, when she threw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game. Hailey was able to participate in the 2017 World Series, not just throwing out the first pitch at a regular season game, but Game 4 of the WORLD SERIES! 

Jaylen Arnold
Jaylen Arnold

After months of bullying from classmates because of his challenges, he decided to do something about it. Instead of fighting back or lashing out in a negative way, Jaylen made himself a commitment when he was 8 years old. He decided he would educate other children and parents about bullying and respect and so he set a goal for himself to one day have his own youtube channel and appear on television to spread his message.

Jaylen decided to make and distribute wristbands in addition to his message so that those wearing them could remind themselves of the effects of bullying and as a way to broaden the message and start the conversations.  Jaylen is taking his message of !Bullying NO WAY! and his “Challenge” for kids to treat each other better on the road, complete with a tour bus, visiting schools around the country.  You can find out more on his website:  Jaylen's Challenge