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Struggling Second Grader Triumphs, Making Teacher Proud

Second grader William Mack is a "changed man" thanks to Success After 6.  When you walk into his SA6 classroom, you'll find him sitting quietly, paying attention to his after-school counselor, and most likely doing his work.

But that wasn't always the case.  Last year, William was talkative, struggled with his school work, didn't pay attention at all, and had to sit right next to the counselor so he wouldn't disrupt the other students.

"This year, he's a lot more disciplined with raising his hand.  Watching him do his homework this year, he's focused.  He is a lot different than last year," says LaToya Hale, William's Success After 6 counselor.

William is one of 200 students in the SA6 after-school program in Youngstown, Ohio.  The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley launched Success After 6, an early education initiative for kindergarten through sixth graders, in 2015. 

SA6 is currently in two schools providing additional academic resources with tutoring during the day and the after-school program in the evening.  So far, the students in the program have improved their reading and math scores by 80%.  They're catching up to their peers by closing the achievement gap at a faster pace than they would without SA6.

It's more than an after-school program, though.  Sixty percent of Youngstown kids live in poverty.  SA6 provides wrap-around services at the two schools for more than 600 students and their families, all who face extreme barriers.

"Being from the area we come from, some children don’t have the opportunity to be able to experience things.  This program exposes them to so much," says Jasmine Hampton, mom of a SA6 First Grader.

SA6 brings everything from food pantries and vision screenings to ballet, art, computer programming, and 3D printing right to the school.  It also focuses on improving students' behavior.

"I think it helped William become more disciplined," says LaToya, "He's doing things for himself.  I push 'Do the thinking on your own' and he does.  So I'm very proud of William!"

Success After 6's goal is for children like William to know there's a big world out there.  Their current circumstances may stop them from experiencing much outside of their own neighborhood, so the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley is stepping in to change that...and help create a promising future for these students and families.