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 In the News:

Grant to Help Expand YMCA Program

Lombard, IL—Tri-Town YMCA will expand its new Afterschool Math Plus curriculum from School District 44 to School District 45 after being selected as one of 23 not-for-profit organizations in DuPage County to receive a grant from The DuPage Community Foundation.  The grant, awarded during the 2014 Fall Community Needs Grant Cycle, will help underwrite Afterschool Math Plus, an academic enrichment program that Tri-Town YMCA was chosen to pilot along with seven other Ys across the country.The Y introduced Afterschool Math Plus to its School District 44 school sites this past fall. Data drawn from recent ISAT scores showed students were in need of assistance to keep up with increasing standards. After the state increased their benchmark for meeting or exceeding its Illinois Standards Achievement Test in 2013 only 59 percent of students achieved passing scores in math. In comparison, 80 percent of students met standards in science.Executive Director Joanne Mitrenga, along with Program Director Jen Buchanan, leads this strategic direction of improving educational outcomes for youth.

“With more and more careers relying on math and technology and an anticipated one million STEM related jobs going unfulfilled in our country by 2018, it is our desire as an organization committed to youth development to equip our students with the skills to succeed in life” said Mitrenga of the new program.

The curriculum of Afterschool Math Plus is a standards-based math activity program that is informal and fun with built-in career connections. Activities are built around four nonmathematical themes to demonstrate how math is found in everyday experiences. The first of four themes, Jump Rope Math, combines jumping rope, having fun and getting exercise with collecting, representing, and interpreting data. As they work on the activities, students create bar graphs, line graphs, scatter graphs and Venn diagrams; they conduct and analyze surveys; they investigate the relationship between the length of jump ropes and their own heights using standard and nonstandard measuring tools; and they count by multiples as they plot information on their graphs.

“The kids are active, out of their chairs and having fun, but at the same time they are learning crucial math skills” said Jen Buchanan, Youth Development Director for Tri-Town YMCA. “By collecting and reflecting on data, students develop understanding and skills that are essential for informed decision-making.”

The matching grant provided by Dupage Community Foundation is a step toward building STEM education into the curriculum for years to come. The grant money helps provide crucial staff development and materials for the lessons. The Y had previously taken a step toward building a strong academic curriculum when it set a goal to increase the education background of its Site Directors. Now with half of their directors holding masters degrees and all of them having degrees or certification in education related fields, the Y is confident in their ability to help students achieve as well as provide a safe place to go afterschool.

This spring students will be participating in Art Math, and the Y has its sights on a field trip to the Elmhurst Art Museum where students will create their own art and families will be invited to view their artwork on display in the Education Center.

According to Buchanan, by June these students will have experience with geometric patterns in art and in real life. “The goal is to inspire curiosity in students outside of the program. They will begin to question what other patterns or shapes they can find, and that leads to excitement about learning.”

Interested in being a part of STEM education within your community? Does your company provide grants to enhance STEM learning to encourage youth to pursue careers in science, technology engineering and math? Contact the Y at 630-629-9622 or by email at info@tritownymca.org. Tri-Town YMCA is also looking for community members who work in STEM related fields to share how math or science inspired them and to answer student questions about future careers in STEM.

About the Y

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,687 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.