Mr. Jose DeJesus, principal at Cedar Hill Elementary School in Lawrenceville, welcomed the opportunity to offer the math enrichment program to his students.
When our staff gathered in our conference room this time last year to review our accomplishments in 2018 and share the executive team’s goals for the coming year, we made a pointed effort to focus on “profit” for 2019. Looking back on the year, we’ve made great strides in streamlining operations and processes without compromising client satisfaction. That was paramount.
It was important to Jennifer and Lliam that the team members understood the driving force behind this push for profit in 2019. A portion of MIS’s profits is earmarked for a much bigger purpose. Our passion for delivering the best IT guidance and solutions to our clients is fueled by our Big Hairy Audacious Goal – to give away 10 percent of our profits to organizations that serve children. Lliam and Jennifer have a long history of contributing to and working with organizations in our community. They are passionate about making an impact in our community and in the lives of others. Simply put: No Money = No Mission.
One of the programs we sponsor is an afterschool math enrichment program for fourth- and fifth-grade students at Cedar Hill Elementary. We are pleased to announce that MIS Solutions will continue funding the program at the Lawrenceville school with hopes of adding more schools in the future.
Filling the Void
If you or someone you know has ever struggled with math, you know how frustrating it can be. Jennifer saw and felt first-hand the stress her own children were experiencing when they were in fourth grade. Although both children are exceptionally bright, math was a bit of a head-scratcher for them. “We noticed that the students who were below average had access to resources to help them reach grade-level proficiency,” said Jennifer. “We also noticed that the high-achieving students had FOCUS, the gifted program in Gwinnett County schools to challenge them even further than their regular math classes. But the kids in the middle – those who needed a little extra help – were on their own. It troubled us to see kids in the middle who were passed over for opportunities.”
Jennifer knew there were other children who were in the same boat as her kids. She also knew that if resources were made available to those students, they could boost their grades and improve their confidence. Since there wasn’t already a program in place, she created one.
She first had to get buy-in from the school administration who then had to get approval from Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS). Then teachers who were willing to commit to teaching the program one day a week after school during the duration of the school year were secured. There were two classes of 15 students each – one for fourth-grade students and one for fifth-grade students, with GCPS providing the curriculum.
The program continued for two years at her children’s school. Unfortunately, no teachers were available to continue the program into its third year. But as they say, when one door closes, another one opens. Through his involvement with Boy Scouts, Lliam met Allison Quevedo, a teacher at Cedar Hill Elementary School, who was eager to bring the program to her school. She approached Mr. Jose DeJesus, principal at Cedar Hill, and he was equally as eager to get the program rolled out. The program is now in its second year at Cedar Hill.
“I was touched by Jennifer’s story and her desire to help those children who just need a boost,” said Mr. DeJesus. He went on to explain that the outpouring of support from local businesses is evident by the number of sponsor signage displayed at high school sporting events. “But this is the first time a private company has sponsored an ongoing program like this for us.”
A Successful First Year
GCPS has four levels of achievement: Beginning Learners, Developing Learners, Proficient Learners and Distinguished Learners. Cedar Hill is a Title I school with 78 percent of its students participating in the free or reduced lunch plan. Title I schools receive federal funding, but those funds are funneled to the programs that support the lowest-achieving students first, then the next level. Funding rarely makes its way up to the Proficient level students.
“We evaluated which kids would most benefit from a program like this and we found that it was the kids who were Proficient – we used to call that grade-level,” he said. “These kids were just shy of being Distinguished, so our goal was to help them.
“Ms. Quevedo and Ms. Kacey Cavanaugh have taken this and run with it. They teach gifted kids so they are able to incorporate some of those gifted strategies in the math enrichment program.” The first year of the program was a great success. Sixty-five percent of the students who participated saw improvement in their math grades.
"I am so excited that they offer this," said Nichole Aman whose daughter Maymoona Bakhoum participates in the program. For many parents like Nichole, hiring a private tutor is cost-prohibitive so the program offers students that extra one-on-one instruction that they need. Prior to starting in the program, Maymoona had a low C score in math. "When she brought home a 91 on her recent math assessment, we were jumping around; we were so excited! That's huge. That speaks volumes on how effective the program is."
Between the two schools, the Math Enrichment program has impacted the lives of 90 children. “It’s our dream to see this program offered in every Gwinnett County elementary school,” said Jennifer. “That’s why we are focused on driving revenue for MIS.”
“We are so thankful for Jennifer and Lliam and their generosity in sponsoring this program,” said Mr. DeJesus. “The kids love it. The parents love it. Ms. Quevedo and Ms. Cavanaugh love it and they love teaching these kids. So we’re very grateful for that.”