By Irene Schweiger

Irene Schweiger

While so many of us make the shift this month from summer vacation to the rush and routine of school, it is my hope that amidst the flurry of activity, each of us in Sandy Springs takes a moment to recognize the incredible commitment and hard work of our teachers and school leaders.

As the executive director of the Sandy Springs Education Force, I have the privilege of working with each of our 11 schools. Since 2009, SSEF has directly supported the men and women who make an impact in our classrooms. We make this commitment because SSEF sees the incredible difference it makes in our community.

In just four years, by partnering with our teachers, school leaders and organizations like Junior Achievement, the Community Assistance Center, and Georgia State University, we are assisting economically disadvantaged students by offering them the tools to improve their academic performance, and, in the process, strengthening each of the public schools in our city.

More specifically, we support efforts like the After School All Stars (ASAS) program at Sandy Springs Charter Middle School. In ASAS, 96 percent of the participants are low-income students. Studies show that given the right support, a comprehensive after-school program makes a significant impact — and the ASAS program has shown proven success.

Remarkable results were found when comparing achievement scores of low-income students who did not attend the program with those who did. Scores from ASAS students were 10 percent higher in English Language Arts, 3.8 percent higher in Math, 5 percent in Reading and 19.6 percent in Science.

Results from those who attended the program for two years showed even greater improvement. In English Language Arts, ASAS participants improved 15.4 percent better than nonparticipants, 12.7 percent higher in Math, 21.5 percent in Reading, and 19.6 percent in Science. These results clearly show that ASAS has impacted the academic potential of over 200 at-risk students.

In addition to after school programs, the SSEF has produced three annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) events with program partners including NASA, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia First Robotics, and the Georgia Tech Research Institute, and involves more than 2,000 plus students each year.

Working with our two city high schools, we have guided 200 low-income students to apply and go to college or vocational programs, and throughout the school year we directly assist our teachers. By offsetting personal expenses for school supplies for as many as 1,000 economically disadvantaged children, we operate a “teachers closet” with the Community Assistance Center.

We do all of this and much more because we believe teachers and school leaders deserve our support, and by assisting their efforts, the entire Sandy Springs community benefits.

At a time when so many families are rushing around getting ready to begin the new school year, it is my hope that many of you will join the Sandy Springs Education Force.

Strong public schools promote a strong community, and our public schools need backing from the entire community to help support a 21st century workforce and economic development for our wonderful city.

You can volunteer your time with SSEF or make a financial donation to support our schools by going to: www.sandyspringseducationforce.org.

Irene Schweiger is the executive director of the Sandy Springs Education Force.