With K-12 students in Mississippi having spent extended periods of time out of the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic, communities across the state are incredibly focused on initiatives targeting learning recovery. MiSsion Acceleration, a GEER-funded pilot program led by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction (CELI), is dedicated to tackling learning recovery head-on through a combination of high-dosage tutoring, evidence-based reading interventions, and meaningful academic and social connections with college-aged role models. The program currently serves K-5 students in need in the Hattiesburg community.
“Having missed so much instruction time, we worry about these students,” says Dr. Ashley Sheils, Program Director. “This program aims to raise the reading achievement of at least 1,000 students across the state.”
Each K-5 student that enters the program is assigned an Academic Guide who will lead the child through lessons designed to accelerate reading growth. In addition to a high-dosage tutoring schedule, children and their families will have access to both a vast digital library and learning resources that can be used at home.
In Hattiesburg, United Way of Southeast Mississippi is partnering with the CELI on this project by coordinating with local child care centers and the universities to match K-5 students with their college-aged Academic Guides.
“It’s important for our community to assist students in making gains in their learning loss. School systems have been working overtime to make sure they have everything they need in the classroom, but we can do our part by continuing to encourage them after school,” says United Way of Southeast Mississippi’s Director of Community Impact Kari Lynn Somers. “College students can use this as an opportunity to learn more about their community while giving back.”
MiSsion Acceleration’s Academic Guides are comprised entirely of college students in Mississippi. Seeking the best and brightest the state has to offer, the program has dozens of Academic Guides currently in service and is actively recruiting for the upcoming school year. College students who join as an Academic Guide are eligible to receive a $1,000 stipend per semester of service.
“College students are critical to the program’s success. We simply could not do it without them,” says Sheils.