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Kids on Course program has record setting summer

One literacy program aims to help Cedar Rapids students during summer to prepare for next school year.
Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 3:45 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Kids on Course University is a program that aims to reduce the summer slide in Cedar Rapids students. It is funded by the Zach Johnson Foundation, Americorps, and Kids on Course recently received a five-year grant from the Iowa Department of Education.

To be invited to the seven-week reading program, students must test below the proper reading level on the state FAST reading assessment. This year, the program was able to invite 1,000 students. Out of the 1,000 invited, Kids on Course hit record participation with 800 students over the summer.

“The other big component of KCU is that we feed these kids two meals every day,” said Stephanie Stulken, program director. “So this summer, we’ve served close to 40,000 meals during KCU.”

The program provides meals and transportation to its students. New this year, KCU began providing families with before and after-school care. Stulken said it’s important that the whole student is taken care of.

“We give them a positive school experience because before you can be a learner to learn how to read, you have to have this whole child taken care of,” Stulken said. “And that’s truly one of our focuses of the summer, is to make sure the whole child is truly taken care of.”

The summer program faces challenges with attendance and battling a summer spent at home, but the program directors said they try and make the program fun for the kids.

“We have had phenomenal attendance this year, over 75 percent of our kids have been here over 80 percent of the time,” Stulken said. “So our attendance has been great. And I say that that’s because we have caring adults in every building that build relationships with these kids.”

The program is pleased with the student progress from the summer.

“It’s been fun to look at the data,” Stulken said. “71 percent of our 585 kids have made growth in reading. So we do a pretest and a post test at their next year’s benchmark.”

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