Beyond the Bell started when a local principal reached out to the YMCA in hopes of a program that would ensure no child falls behind.
This particular school had a high poverty rate in comparison with others and children were falling through the cracks — unable to keep up with literacy, numeracy as well as social and emotional learning targets.
“These children are falling behind their middle-income peers because their lives are so complex,” explains Danielle Miranda, Child Care VP with the YMCA of Okanagan.
“They have problems and vulnerabilities at home that are preventing their learning at school. Beyond the Bell is created in a way that provides a safe place to belong.”
Research shows that as early as kindergarten, children from low-income backgrounds are already at a six-month academic disadvantage compared to children from middle-income families.
If a child cannot read at their grade level by the time they are in grade 3, there is a greater chance they will continue to struggle, with a high percentage dropping out of secondary school.
As this gap continues to widen each year, it ultimately affects their academic and career opportunities along with their overall health — this is what researchers call the ‘achievement gap’.
“The children who attend Beyond the Bell are highly vulnerable,” states Miranda.
“They are actually selected by the teachers and principals based first that they are from a low-income family, but they also often have trauma that they have endured which is preventing their learning.”
Beyond the Bell is a place children can come for after-school homework help, social and emotional skill development, nutritious snacks and simply a place they can receive support from positive, caring role models.
It also provides a chance for children to relax and simply be children rather than taking on adult roles they may otherwise have if they were at home.
“When children are suffering, it requires the community to wrap around them and support them,” says Miranda.
This program is provided free to the community thanks to the incredible generosity of local donors. Learn more about YMCA Beyond the Bell and the impact it is having in our community.