By Kiawah Cares Foundation for The Island Connection
South Carolina is known to have one of the weakest public school systems in the nation.
However, the tides are turning within the Sea Islands, thanks to a budding network of nonprofits determined to improve education.
The Kiawah Cares Foundation is a local nonprofit that acts primarily as a facilitator, matching donors and volunteers with vetted Sea Islands programs demonstrating impactful results. On May 7, Kiawah Cares launched a six-week campaign, Kiawah Cares About Education, to generate the $225,000 minimum needed to create a more promising outlook for Johns and Wadmalaw Island students in the 2019-2020 school year. The campaign will run through Friday, June 14. With this fundraiser, the foundation hopes to generate the financial fuel for these powerful educational programs to thrive.
For seven years, Kiawah Cares has worked directly with District 9 schools and other nonprofits to identify where the greatest educational needs and opportunities lie within the Sea Islands. The programs that Kiawah Cares hopes to fund through this campaign provide a comprehensive approach to education, touching on foundational and progressive education, arts programming, and student support services.
Some of the selected programs include Communities In Schools, STEM, Yo Art, Reading Partners, Soulfully Creative Kids, Begin with Books, and more, reaching preschool through high school students. These programs have demonstrated that they are substantially progressing education, and they are worthy of support.
The largest portion of funds will go to two programs: putting a Communities In Schools student support specialist in all five District 9 schools ($125,000 need) and launching the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program at Mt. Zion Elementary School (a portion of the $160,000 total need).
The five local schools would benefit from gaining a full-time Communities In Schools (CIS) student support specialists to address academic and non-academic barriers for at-risk students. The specialists not only guide students to set behavior, attendance, and academic improvement goals, but also connect them with outside resources ranging from tutors and counseling to basic need fulfillment.
It’s a more extensive approach than a school counselor is typically capable of providing. 99% of students with CIS support stay in school. 88% of students with CIS support meet or make progress towards their academic goals. These stats affirm that CIS student support specialists are a powerful and crucial contributor to student success.
At Mt. Zion Elementary School, they are hopeful to launch the STEM program for the 2019-2020 school year. Installing the lab room for STEM activities and funding the curriculum of hands-on activities that are fundamental to the program is a $160,000 investment. This $160,000 will not only get the program up and running for this school year, but in perpetuity, as Charleston County is likely to fund any annual fees.
Launching the STEM program will radically improve the educational opportunities for the approximately 280 children in all grades at the school. STEM related jobs, like computer programming, informatics and engineering generate wages that average 93% above the national average wage, and almost double the income of non-STEM occupations. So providing young students with the foundation to pursue a future within a STEM career, could radically improve their future.
This Kiawah Cares About Education fundraiser is an invitation for Kiawah, Seabrook, Johns and Wadmalaw Island residents to come together to support a critical need in our community: education. This single fundraiser with its holistic approach, will boost educational programs in all area schools and provide the one-on-one support to students in order for them to flourish, now and in the future.
To contribute to this education improvement effort, or to learn more, visit KiawahCares.org.