By Natalie Yeaman and Julian Rueda
Crime surrounds them. Yet they hope.
Brook Avenue Elementary teachers are determined to help their students grow academically.
According to the U.S. Census, the number of individuals living below the poverty line in Waco is 16.8 percent. Brook Avenue Elementary is located in Waco.
Brook Avenue officials said the school is ‘academically unacceptable,’ according to the Texas Education Agency, but test scores have increased over the last four years. The increase indicates that students are better understanding the material they learn at the school.
According to its website, Brook Avenue is committed as a unified team to providing an education of excellence for their students with the support and involvement of parents, community, and Partners in Education, thereby developing lifelong learners with the social and academic skills that will enhance our diverse society.
One academic program the school offers is the after school program.
Afterschool Center on Education allows students who are struggling academically to have safe place, structured and supervised, intended for learning and social interaction, according to the Texas Ace 21 website, a resource for Texas after-school programs. Students must apply to be in this program.
The after school program is federally funded through the 21st Century Community Learning Center program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
The program is intended to help fund programs that work to enhance local reform efforts. These local reform efforts include helping students meet academic standards in core subjects including math, reading, science and social studies, by providing out-of-school time services to students and their families.
The after-school program is open to 30 students at a time at Brook Avenue because of the limited number of tutors. All tutors are Baylor students.
Mechelle Mitchell, the after school site manager at Brook Avenue, said students in the program are chosen on a need-basis.
“We have to review the Academic Excellence Indicator System report, grades, attendance and behavior,” Mitchell said. “The AEIS report is used to create the lesson plans to aid students who are struggling.”
Robinson sophomore Emily Netherland works for Waco Independent School District. She is responsible for creating lesson plans based on the Academic Excellence Indicator System for the after school program.
“The lesson plans for the after-school programs are designed so that students can learn while having fun,” Netherland said. “They get to participate in experiments that other students don’t.”
Students in the after-school program are able to participate in the garden club, which teaches responsibility by keeping students accountable for the fruits and vegetables they grow.
Joshua senior and tutor Colton Dearing said, “The most rewarding thing is seeing the growth of the students that participate in the programs both academically and personally.”
Amanda Diaz said the programs offered at Brook Avenue have helped her child, specifically in the area of reading.
Cynthia McDonald said she has kept her child at Brook Avenue because she feels like she can easily communicate with staff and faculty that are involved with the programs.
Some students are eligible to receive a free or reduced-priced lunch. This number has increased from 93.8 percent in 2009 to 98.3 percent in 2011, which indicates students’ financial situations overall have gotten worse.
Brook Avenue also receives donations from churches, such as Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. Columbus Avenue offers students attending Brook Avenue Elementary uniforms, consisting of khaki pants and a colored polo. They also offer a mentoring program under the direction of Anne Broadus, director of Kid’s Hope ministry.
“They provide professionals from across the city that come weekly to interact with our students as role models, assist mentees with classroom assignments if needed, and oftentimes come to just be that listening ear,” Brook Avenue assistant principal Vicki Stone said.
Brook Avenue also has speakers who have experienced similar situations to the students come talk to the students
Baylor graduate Terrance Ganaway spoke at Brook Avenue. He told students his experience growing up in a poor family but also told students to “let your actions dictate who you are,” according to the Waco ISD website.
Ganaway is the youngest of nine children and was the first person in his family to graduate from college. He is currently playing football with the St. Louis Rams.
Working toward improvement despite limitations is the motto at Brook Avenue.