Sparta Boys & Girls Club awarded Great Rivers United Way Venture Grant

Great Rivers United Way recently awarded the Sparta Boys & Girls Club nearly $1,000 in Venture Grant funding. According to Executive Director Jennifer Simunich, the grant will support Sparta BGC’s Stride Academy and Junior Staff programming.
Since 1987, more than $1 million has been allocated by United Way to non-profit organizations throughout the Coulee Region through Venture Grants, which is funding spent on tangible items or services that enable an agency to better serve its clients.
Simunich learned about the grant because Sparta BGC is a partner agency with United Way. United Way’s Community Impact Director Liz Evans added that venture grant funding hasn’t been available for a few years.
Sparta BGC has received money from United Way in the past and Simunich felt she would try again.
“We had a need for some updated technology,” she said. “This will actually help buy equipment so we can run the program. This way, we can reach more kids.”
The club will purchase new Chromebook tablets, other program materials and participation incentives for the members involved.
Stride Academy is a computer-based tutorial program that diagnoses members’ strengths and skills gaps on Common Core and state standardized testing. It automatically scaffolds its curriculum up or down based on the child’s age and grade to accelerate or remediate the learner accordingly.
“It’s a way for us to help move the meter with the kids in their reading and their math scores,” Simunich added. “We get reports monthly on the strides that they’re making.”
Seventy-five students in grades 3-12 participate in Stride Academy for a minimum of one hour per week.
“Kids love to geek out on new technology and we have a lot of desktop computers but they’re into the smaller gadgets,” Simunich said. “We have so many different reasons to use Chromebooks and tablets here that it just seemed like a good fit.”
The Junior Staff program prepares the club’s teen members for careers in service professions. Junior Staff helps teens develop interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic and a deeper sense of community engagement through on-the-job club work.
The grant money will allow 45 teens to be trained and supported as Junior Staff.
United Way offered a total of $15,000 in Venture Grant funding to its partners and other non profits as part of its 70th Anniversary celebration. Applicants were asked to illustrate how the program seeking funds would help the community overall achieve one or more of the objectives in its new strategic plan.
Within the Sparta School District, Simunich said there are four other charter clubs that use the Stride Academy for after school programs, which makes a much broader impact.
“We always talk about our partnership to really let the community know that the school district and the club are not trying to duplicate services we’re trying to share services and have an overall common goal,” Simunich said. “We all want the students to be able to graduate on time and move on to become good citizens.”

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