Thirty-two Edina elementary students spent two weeks this month dabbling in soccer, cheerleading, art, science, movie making, volleyball, hip-hop, chemistry and earthquake engineering at the Edina Community Center.
Twenty Edina High School student volunteers helped lead the curriculum and lunch was donated by Edina businesses Crave, D’Amico’s, D. Brian’s and Davanni’s, and by the Romanow family of Edina. To fill in on a day when lunch hadn’t been donated, Edina Community Education staff packed lunches for the students.
The Edina Federated Women’s club provided a grant, along with donations from Edina residents, to start the Summer is Go Time program to provide the two-week summer enrichment to economically disadvantaged elementary students living in Edina.
The community effort to provide the program was brought together by Edina Give and Go, a nonprofit that began last year to connect donors and volunteers via its website to Edina students’ needs in academic support, arts, athletics, college support, enrichment, technology, youth employment and transportation.
The children participating in Summer is Go Time were excited and it was adorable to see the kids having fun while learning, said Lillian Ziff, Edina Give and Go’s director who retired after 26 years working in the Edina school district. These kids would have normally stayed home because they couldn’t afford to attend summer programs at the Edina Community Center, she said. Edina Give and Go began the push this spring to provide a summer program, inviting students on free and reduced-price lunch to participate.
Former Edina School Board member Idith Almog and Edina resident Meg Rodriguez created Edina Give and Go in August 2013 with the goal of all Edina children having access to activities and support outside of their school day regardless of their socioeconomic status.
In the first few months, the money wasn’t coming in, and district teachers and social workers were requesting items for students. But as awareness about Edina Give and Go grew, the community’s response has been phenomenal, Ziff said.
The nonprofit helped more than 200 children during the school year and 100 children this summer.
The greatest need they’ve addressed is technology assistance, Ziff said, telling about how she was approached by a teacher while at an elementary school. The teacher had a student whose family didn’t have Internet access at home and the student couldn’t do homework, falling behind and feeling bad because she didn’t have the same resources at home that the rest of her classmates did. Edina Give and Go was able to provide a laptop and a year’s subscription to the Internet through donations. The teacher was thrilled to learn that Edina Give and Go existed as a resource, Ziff said.
“The Edina community is a very generous community,” Ziff said, thanking the donors and partners who made programs possible.
Edina Give and Go also made an impact on students’ lives in college preparation. Students who are first-generation Americans or the first to go to college in their family may not have someone who can help them navigate the college application process, or have the funding to pay for a private tutor or prep class for college entrance exams, she said.
Edina Give and Go was able to provide the funding for students to take the ACT exam a second time to raise their scores. Some students’ families don’t have a credit card, which is needed to register online for the exams, and Edina Give and Go was able to get a credit card for students to use to register. They also were able to provide ACT prep books for some students so they would be preparing with the same materials as their classmates, and a tutor volunteered weekly to work with students who would not otherwise be able to afford it, she said.
They also made an impact with Saturday School, partnering with the Edina Education Fund to provide the funding and volunteers for the program, Ziff said. About 50 kids came in on Saturday mornings to receive help on homework and also to reinforce skills learned in the classroom. Ziff volunteered with first- and second-graders with the help of ninth-grade volunteers that the kids loved to see, she said.
Other needs that Edina Give and Go helped address this year included providing donated bikes for students on free and reduced-priced lunch for a bike safety program, providing scholarships for 20 children to participate in Edina Parks and Recreation programs, and partnering with Edina High School teacher Tom Connell’s Access Great Teachers organization for students to participate in a Summer Scholars Program to provide summer education by visiting various sites around the metro.
As Edina Give and Go heads into its second year, they’ll continue to increase awareness in the community that residents can impact children’s lives in Edina with donations, she said. They’re also planning to add activities and especially work to get high school students involved in volunteering. The kids in the Summer is Go Time program loved to see the high school volunteers who became their buddies during the program, she said.
The organization is also looking to collaborate and partner with other groups, Ziff said, adding that they partnered to provide lunches during the summer program. Those lunches made a difference to the kids and they were excited to see what they were having for lunch, feeling like they were on a picnic, she said.
Edina Give and Go’s report of needs addressed in its first year through donations and volunteers:
• Urgent needs – Provided donated clothing from Edina Give and Go Board of Directors to a homeless student; provided winter clothing (boots and snow pants) to elementary students in need; provided Target gift cards to two families who were homeless; one student at an elementary school needed money to have breakfast; and purchased a pair of eyeglasses for a student so she could see visual materials.
• Technology – Twenty-four devices to provide Internet connection, along with a year’s subscription to Internet services, were given to families so students could access assignments and other web-based learning at home; and six donated and refurbished laptops were given to families with no technology in their home.
• Academic support – Contributed to nutrition funds for an after-school program at elementary and middle schools for underserved youth; collaborated with the Edina school district and Edina Education Fund to fund Saturday School where at least 50 students (kindergarten through ninth grade) worked with tutors and teachers to review skills, learn study skills and receive help with homework; coordinated volunteer tutors with Saturday School and after-school tutoring; paid for bowling fees for two middle school students; and funded the Jumpstart to Kindergarten Program, which provided readiness skills and preparation for 12 underserved pre-kindergarten students.
• Enrichment – Donor contributed $550 toward a summer leadership program for a middle school student; 10 yearbooks were purchased for middle school students; two EHS students are attending a summer science camp; four EHS students are attending a summer program focusing on preparation for Advanced Placement classes; contributed funds to a middle school biking program for 14 students to learn bike safety, bike maintenance and enjoy the metro trails.
• Arts: Two students attended a national event with the EHS Thespians; two students traveled on a choir trip to Chicago with the EHS Concert Choir; and 15 musical instruments were collected and donated to students wanting to participate in band and orchestra.
• Athletics: Six students were given Edina sweatshirts to use during “Spirit Week;” one student was given a swimsuit to wear in the swim unit of gym class; one student received athletic attire to wear at events for the track and field team; one student’s registration fee for the track and field team; one student was able to attend an overnight middle school basketball tournament with her team.
• College support: A college test prep tutor assisted five students over the year to prepare for college tests; 10 high school students took the ACT test a second time to improve their scores for college placements and scholarships; ACT prep books were purchased for five high school students; and money was given for lunches on a college field trip.
• Transportation: Five students took driver’s education classes; four students were given bus passes to get to school and attend after-school extracurricular activities; and 85 bus passes were given to EHS for present and future needs of students who lack transportation to school and school events.
• Collaborations: Smart Bar at Valley View Middle School; Edina Community Education for summer program and drivers education classes; and Edina Public Schools for Saturday School and Summer is Go Time.
Contact Lisa Kaczke at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent.