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Through the Beyond Our Gates program, early iteracy mini-grants go to local nonprofits for literacy and reading programs throughout the community.

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Pacific News

Pacific community effort receives second grant from James Irvine Foundation

Dec 5, 2017

Early literacy efforts led by University of the Pacific's Beyond Our Gates initiative recently received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to continue vital programs that help schoolchildren learn and improve reading skills.

This is the second such James Irvine Foundation grant Beyond Our Gates and its community partners have received to improve the literacy rate in San Joaquin County. The first two-year, $300,000 grant was for 2016-17 and helped to fund a variety of programs to better prepare schoolchildren for success in school.

"The fact that the James Irvine Foundation re-funded our efforts is proof that the work we're doing to improve early literacy in San Joaquin County is having an impact and that those efforts should continue," said Stacy McAfee, Pacific's associate vice president for external relations, strategic partnerships and presidential initiatives. "We have so much work still to do in order to give even more schoolchildren in this county a fighting chance for academic success and the grant will help us continue that work."

The YMCA of San Joaquin County has received Beyond Our Gates mini grants the past two years for its Powers Summer Scholars program, which is designed to prevent summer learning loss among low-income students. The 60 graduates of the academy in July wore shirts emblazoned "Finding My Inner Genius" at the commencement ceremony.

"The cost for the program is $700 per student, so the grant from the University of Pacific's Beyond Our Gates provided much-needed funding," said YMCA CEO Emily Ballus. "It's through community support such as Beyond Our Gates that we can provide services to youth who score well below national averages in academic achievement."

Tuleburg Press, another organization supported by a Beyond Our Gates mini grant, not only focuses on early literacy but also helps participants create their own books through a program called BiblioKids.   Director Paula Sheil describes what was made possible with Beyond Our Gates funding: "More than 36 hours of instruction was provided by six instructors. Much of the actual book making and writing instruction was one-on-one. Each child made 5 to 7 books and took home supplies every day to duplicate the task at home."

Third-grade literacy, a leading indicator of future educational success, improved in San Joaquin County in recent years, but continues to lag compared to the rest of the state - 35.4 percent compared to 44 percent statewide. The grant will continue a variety of successful programs that have helped that improvement:

  • Early Literacy Mini Grants go to local nonprofits, schools, churches and other Beyond Our Gates partners for summer learning and reading programs, staffing, kindergarten preparedness programs, and other efforts. With the first grant, Beyond Our Gates was able to award 20 grants totaling $127,000 and the new grant includes funds for those to continue.
  • Annual Literacy Report gauges the community's third-grade reading level, preschool attendance, library book usage, and other indicators. While the report has existed the past five years, the initial grant allowed for the collecting of more in-depth information for a greater impact.
  • Every Day Counts Attendance Challenge works with all San Joaquin County pre-K-8 schools to spotlight attendance during the first month of school so that students realize how very important being class is to learning. The challenge began four years ago with 40 schools and 10,000 students attaining perfect attendance and this year 82 schools and nearly 22,000 students reached perfect attendance. Community partners Stockton Heat and Wells Fargo helped with prizes that ranged from bookmarks to hockey game tickets and Kindles.
  • Annual Dialogue and other events that bring to the area innovative thought leaders on education and literacy to share their experiences and ways to improve efforts here.
  • Talk Read Sing Draw Play provides a variety of tools that help parents engage with their children and prompt them to read, as well as talk, sing, draw and play. Such items include placemats, ballpark "passports," and other interactive educational tools. Organizations can contact Mike Klocke, the university's community relations director at 209.946.3134 or to receive permission to adapt the interactive tools for use with their audiences.

The grant also helps fund data collection and analysis, and promotion of the various programs. "There is always more to do when it comes to literacy and this second James Irvine Foundation grant will allow us and our community partners to continue the work we've done to improve literacy here in San Joaquin County," McAfee said. "We deeply appreciate that the foundation recognized that our efforts should continue."

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grant-making foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. The foundation's grant-making focuses on three program areas: arts, California democracy and youth. In 2016, the foundation announced specific focus on expanding economic and political opportunity for California families and young adults who are working, but struggling with poverty. Since 1937, The James Irvine Foundation has provided more than $1.6 billion in grants to more than 3,600 nonprofit organizations throughout California. In 2016 alone, the foundation gave nearly $84 million to 332 organizations helping Californians. Visit the James Irvine Foundation website for more information about the group. In 2010, Pacific President Pamela Eibeck held a series of public forums to discuss the major issues within the community and to figure out helpful solutions. These forums provided several promising solutions and led to the forming of the Beyond Our Gates initiative. The university and community partners are working to improve education and provide a better quality of life. These projects include Reading by Third, the Every Day Counts attendance challenge and the Tomorrow Project. 

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