ORLANDO, Fla. – School’s out and while it’s great for kids to get a break from class, educators often worry about something they call the “summer slide.”
It’s when students lose knowledge gained over the school year.
And research shows at-risk students often fall behind at a greater rate because they don’t have the educational resources and opportunities available to them during the summer. This adds to the achievement gap, or the differences in scores between disadvantaged and advantaged children.
But when parents and educators team up, they can help prevent summer learning loss from affecting their students and that’s what’s happening at Impact Outreach Ministries in Orange County.
Lewis and Irene Taylor started the nonprofit in 2011 when they were both working. Lewis, a chemist, and Irene, a biologist. Today, they say they’re retired but running their nonprofit seems like a full-time job.
The two work out of a small home on Rose Boulevard south of Orlando that was once a church rectory. The one-room classroom is filled with desktop computers that capture the kids’ attention.
“What’s unique about this sector we serve is that it’s one of nine zip codes in Orange County that are responsible for 90+% of all the negative things that go on with youth,” said Lewis Taylor, looking around at the room full of students, all living in the surrounding 32839 zip code.
The Taylors are making use of an Orange County grant offered to nonprofits through the Citizen’s Commission for Children, a division of the Orange County Community and Family Services Department.
The Impact Outreach Community-Based Summer and School-Break Programming represents Sector 5.
The students get exposed to a variety of activities throughout the week including English, STEM projects, and volunteers even come in to teach music and photography lessons.
It’s all free of charge.
“We know kids learn differently,” Irene Taylor said. “Some kids have different strengths. Some kids are stronger in academic, some kids are stronger with sports, some kids are stronger when they’re given opportunities to interact with others. So we try to engage them in all those types of opportunities.”
“Someone invested in my life, someone encouraged me and they saw what education did for my life,” Lewis Taylor said. “Now we want to give back to those less fortunate in our community. We believe education matters. It’s a difference-maker.”
Irene Taylor says they’ve always been active volunteers but realized it was time to work a little closer to home. “We’ve always worked with our church and with nonprofits and organizations but then we asked ourselves what about our neighborhood? What about our community? Lets start here.”
The Taylors say about 26 kids are in the program.
Irene Taylor says she has a dream that one day she’ll be surprised to see one of her former students show up on her television making a major positive impact in the world.
“The next rocket scientist might be here,” Taylor said, looking around. “The first person to walk on another planet might be in this room. The one to come up with a cure for an ailment we didn’t think could be cured, if they’re just given the opportunity.”
The Taylors also offer an after-school tutoring program and a suspension prevention intervention program. They’re looking for volunteers. If you think you can help, more information can be found at their website: theimpactoutreach.org