Waynesboro’s RISE Summer Program Helps Students Retain Knowledge

WAYNESBORO — It was a harrowing experience for Saryah Mandujano on Thursday night. The 11-year-old described herself as a “really shy person”, so standing in front of a room full of people for a debate was not something she was entirely comfortable with.

“I was trying to get through it because I know we’ve been training for quite a while and I was like, we’ve got this,” Mandujano said. “There was nothing that could really go wrong. We have everything.”

The debate was part of the RISE Foundation’s closing program for its summer session on Thursday evening. While younger students read poems they had written and displayed artwork, four older students took part in a discussion about the potential dangers of social media and its connection to teen suicide. A profound subject, no doubt, but which the four students handled skilfully.

Janya Payne, who teamed up with Mandujano, agreed the debate was stressful. Her mother, Sonya Payne, was surprised that her daughter would attend.

“You couldn’t really get her to speak in public,” Sonya Payne said. “This year in particular, she’s really come out of her shell. I can see the transition and the confidence that has come into her. She’s stood up in front of people and participated in a debate. That, in itself, is like a miracle .”

This is part of what the RISE Foundation hoped to accomplish during its summer educational program in June. Chanda McGuffin, co-founder of RISE with Sharon Fitz, said the main goal of the program is to prepare students for the school year ahead, helping them retain what they learned from the previous school year. .

A study published in 2020 in the American Education Research Journal showed that 52% of students in grades 1-6 lost an average of 39% of their total school year gains during each summer. The study was conducted over a period of five years.

“We can identify some gaps pretty quickly, early on and get started,” McGuffin said.

During the four-week program, students work on math, science, reading, and writing. It goes beyond the basics, however. RISE brings in guest speakers from different professions to discuss career choices with students. The students write poetry, some of which was read at the closing ceremony Thursday night in Waynesboro. And there was the debate, an event that allowed students to work on public speaking and research.

Sonya Payne’s youngest child on the show has struggled with reading in the past. After attending RISE’s summer school for the past two years, as well as the after-school program during the school year, Payne has seen a big improvement. She said her child’s confidence had increased, which helped her to read.

“The foundation that RISE laid to build trust was significant,” Payne said. “Just because she’s struggling doesn’t mean she can’t learn or isn’t smart. It really made a difference. When she went back to her public school classroom, we we all noticed that she had made great progress.”

Earlier in the week, Virginia Del. John Avoli presented the RISE Foundation with a check for $250,000, part of a state budget amendment submitted by Avoli. McGuffin said the funds will be used to expand the services offered by the RISE Foundation.

“We have a lot of plans on paper,” she said. “But it takes money to make those plans.”

10-year-old William Wallace said RISE was the best thing he had ever done.

“It taught me to express myself,” Wallace said. “How to make a poem in front of everyone. My experience was fun.”

Ophelia Kier is Wallace’s mother. She said her son struggled with confidence in primary school, having had a bad experience with a teacher who was not very supportive. The RISE program has helped change that.

“His whole attitude changed,” she said. “Being around other kids who helped him and gave him the confidence to want to read, pursue and do better. And RISE teachers who simply give their time and energy to kids bring out the best.”

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Patrick Hite is the education reporter for The News Leader. Story ideas and tips are always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at phite@newsleader.com and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite. Subscribe to newsleader.com.

Donald E. Patel