CASH providing tools for success
When all the homework assigned assumes every child has access to a computer and internet, those without suffer a distinct disadvantage. Morris McCorvey, Executive Director of the Westside Community Center, noticed this problem several years ago. Many of the students in his programs didn’t have regular access to a computer. He wanted Westside Community Center, a United Way partner agency, to be part of the solution to the problem.
He decided to start a new program, Community Advanced Study Hall (CASH), to help meet that need. The Schmoldt Foundation provided a perpetual endowment for the computer lab, and CASH was awarded United Way Venture Grant funding in 2014 and 2015 to help with other program expenses. United Way Venture Grants seek to fund new or expanding programs that meet United Way’s objective of fighting for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.
“The Venture Grant process is designed to test out new programs and ideas and give them space to create a plan for success. Then, after two years of providing statistics on their impact, the best of those are invited for long-term United Way support,” Bartlesville Regional United Way Marketing Manager Abigail Singrey said.
The CASH program did well enough that became an official United Way funded program in late 2016.
The mission of CASH is “to make sure that the kids can reach their full academic potential and that they all have access to computers and software,” McCorvey said.
Children are transported from Jane Phillips Elementary School, Kane Elementary School and Central Middle School. With the recent addition of another vehicle, McCorvey hopes to be able to add Wilson Elementary School to the list soon. Currently, around 60 percent of the kids they work with come from Jane Phillips Elementary. On average, 20 students a day come to WCC for academic help.
After students arrive at Westside Community Center, they are served a nutritious snack and then participate in some meditation exercises to clear their mind and calm them. Then they are assigned to a volunteer or staff member to help them with their homework or recreational reading. After half an hour of academic work, they are able to participate in either computer recreation or outdoor recreation.
“What we do that’s unique is that we put academics first. You don’t get to recreation at WCC until you’ve done the academic portion,” McCorvey said.
Children have the opportunity to take advantage of 96 hours of computing classes during the school year. The students in the program spent 660 hours working on math and science exercises last school year, and another 660 hours completing their school assignments. CASH volunteers work with the students to develop the study habits the children need to catch up and stay on grade level.
“We’re like school (that happens) after school,” McCorvey said.
But it’s not all work and no play. Fridays is movie day at the club, and children have the opportunity to participate in crafts and chess weekly.
CASH also allows the children to have access to all the resources available in the community. Children’s Musical Theater staff have given workshops to help prepare the Westside children for auditions, and Westside provides transportation to ACT workshops and college preparation classes. WCC staff also help older teens identify scholarships that they would be eligible for.
Sometimes the relationships built bring kids to McCorvey for advice. One ambitious honors student decided he wanted to pursue a career in the U.S. Army. McCorvey recommended the student look into Westpoint, an option that he had not considered before. He is now in his third year at Westpoint. He plans to come volunteer and give back at Westside Community Center someday.
“We had built the kind of relationship over the 600 hours (he spent in the program) that allow us to have those kind of conversations,” McCorvey said.
He hopes that he and his volunteers continue to build many more relationships like that through the CASH program.