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How the RISE program helps students avoid 'summer slide'
Brenau's six-week learning effort helps kids retain knowledge over break
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Students toss their caps in the air Friday, July 13, 2018, at Fair Street International School following a RISE summer program graduation ceremony in the school's gymnasium. Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience is a six-week program that targets summer learning loss in children beginning at age 7. It was created and is led by Brenau education students and professors. - photo by Scott Rogers

The summer slide, it’s called, a worry some parents have that their children might forget what they’ve learned during the last school year while the seasonal break extends into its dog days. 

But if parents with children in the Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience were looking for confirmation that their little students had succeeded immensely in the six-week program, they got it on Friday, July 13 at the Fair Street International Academy.

“This year has, by far, been the best,” said DeAnna Stovall, Brenau class of 2015 and lead of the RISE program.

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Ten-year-old Jalan Nicely takes a selfie with mom Tiffany on Friday, July 13, 2018, at Fair Street International School following the RISE summer program's graduation ceremony. Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience is a six-week program that targets summer learning loss in children beginning at age 7. It was created and is led by Brenau education students and professors. - photo by Scott Rogers
More than 100 graduates, a record number, dressed in green gowns and hats gathered in the Fair Street gym to show off their awards and entertain parents, teachers and nonprofit partners with songs and dance at the annual commencement ceremony.

The RISE program was developed by Brenau University educators for children from low-income families to participate in summer programming that helps students retain knowledge and prepare for the next grade level.

Brenau alumnae and student teachers continue conduct the program for the various ages and grade levels of RISE children.

Kindergartners through fifth-graders participate in the free program, and about half of the students reside in public housing, according to Stovall.

According to university spokeswoman Kristen Bowman, Brenau conducts pre- and post-testing that shows improvement in math and reading among RISE graduates.

The program is about fun and friendship, too.

Students have opportunities to take classes in cooking, physical education, drama, science and dance. Field trips that included visits to the Georgia Aquarium and Atlanta Zoo this year are also part of the experience.

Teachers said the program allowed them to see “light bulbs go off” for students as they achieved their learning goals.

Meanwhile, students described RISE as the “best summer ever.” Student Syr Chase Dawson, for example, said it was about having fun and learning.

“You won’t regret it,” he added, as if advising younger kids. 

RISE partners include the Gainesville Housing Authority, the United Way of Hall County, Jackson EMC Foundation, Liberty Utilities, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Alliance for Literacy and others providing funding, resources and food distributions.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said providing resources and space for the program to operate is critical and a no-brainer.

“For us, being able to provide Fair Street as a home ... to give an opportunity for kids to continue learning through the summer just makes our jobs easier when kids come back,” he said.

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About 100 students take part in a RISE summer program's graduation ceremony Friday, July 13, 2018, at Fair Street International School. Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience is a six-week program that targets summer learning loss in children beginning at age 7. It was created and is led by Brenau education students and professors. - photo by Scott Rogers
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