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Shining a Light Forward Bright Futures engages local schools,


helps students advance academically by Jeff Samoray


For many children, advancing


from elementary to middle to high school is no easy task. Nearly one out of four Michigan students fails to graduate from public school with his or her freshman class, according to the Michigan Department of Education. Research shows dropout predictors often appear between the fi fth and ninth grades. In an eff ort to address this


problem, Eastern’s Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Communities launched its Bright Futures 21st


Photo courtesy of Sydney Johnson Century


Community Learning Centers program in 1997. Bright Futures off ers high-quality after-school programs in about 20 elementary, middle and high schools in the Romulus, Wayne-Westland and Ypsilanti school districts. The program serves about 800 students each day and 1,300 families every year. The Michigan Department of Education awarded three $675,000 grants in 2013 to support three Bright Futures cohorts. “Bright Futures focuses on positive youth development


by teaching skills like perseverance, time management and organization,” says Lynn Malinoff , Bright Futures project director. “We also focus on a growth mindset—the idea that becoming an expert at something requires a lot of determination, practice and failure. We also share these strategies with the teachers so the concepts can become incorporated in the school culture. The totality helps prepare elementary, middle and high school students to advance to the next level of schooling.” Bright Futures programs meet after school for three hours


Monday through Thursday throughout the school year, as well as in the summer. Highly trained coordinators provide instruction and leadership at each program site. Students receive daily homework help, targeted academic assistance and mentoring. Students also participate in a variety of clubs and activities that reinforce academic concepts from the school curriculum


within the context of learning a skill or craft. At Marshall Upper Elementary School in Westland, students can participate in clubs like “Art-spiration,” “Mad Science” and “Origami and Paper Airplane Creation.” Students at Ypsilanti New Tech High School have access to clubs like Video Game Design, Music, Nutritious Cooking and others focused on leadership and anti-bullying. The program is paying


dividends. In 2013-14, about 70 percent of the 1,300 Bright


Futures students engaged in activities that support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Classroom teachers reported that about 70 percent of Bright Futures students improved in homework completion and classroom behavior. About 95 percent of parents said the program provides positive benefi ts for their children. “It’s important to have strategies that support the students,


move them through the process of learning, and allow them to practice and learn from their mistakes,” Malinoff says. “Bright Futures instills a confi dence that allows the students to move forward and prepare for the complex word that awaits them.” Bright Futures also exemplifi es the many ways Eastern


actively engages with the community to improve the quality of life of individuals. Eastern’s activities led to a prestigious 2015 Community Engagement Classifi cation from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. To receive this recognition, a college or university must demonstrate exceptional community involvement and submit materials illustrating the depth and breadth of its engagement. Eastern is one of just 240 universities nationally to receive this designation. To learn more about the Bright Futures program, visit


EMUBrightFutures.org. For more information about community engagement at Eastern, visit emich.edu/engage. 3


8 Eastern | SPRING 2015


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