Georgia Impact

Partnership between UGA and local middle schools to be expanded

A student from Hilsman Middle School participates in the after-school mentorship program. (Submitted photo)

The program, which offers after-school tutoring and coaching, improved students’ grades and participation in sports

The University of Georgia has partnered with the Clarke County School District to expand an after-school academic tutoring and sports mentoring program designed to advance middle school students’ success in the classroom and on the athletic field.

Building on the success of a 2022 pilot program conducted with 45 students at Hilsman Middle School, UGA President Jere W. Morehead has provided funding to continue the program at Hilsman and extend it to Clarke Middle School.

“I am pleased that the University of Georgia and the Clarke County School District joined together to create this important program,” said Morehead. “This partnership provides our students with the opportunity to engage with youth in the local community while gaining valuable experience to prepare them for future careers in education.”

A UGA student participating in the mentorship program talks to kids at Hilsman Middle School. (Submitted photo)

The program is administered through UGA’s Mary Frances Early College of Education, which offers a service-learning class open to all UGA students. Through the class, students learn critical skills for working with middle school youth and gain a greater understanding of how community issues impact students’ experiences in and out of the classroom.

After six weeks of instruction, UGA students travel to the middle schools twice a week to provide an hour of academic tutoring and an hour of sports skills training. The program connects one UGA student to one or two middle school students to foster a mentoring relationship.

“This partnership provides outstanding support to our student-athletes and teachers. Even in the pilot stage, this program made an impact on student outcomes,” said CCSD Superintendent Xernona Thomas. “We are excited to see how the expansion of this program will further develop the confidence, academic performance and athletic success of even more middle school students.”

Students at Hilsman Middle School. (Submitted photo)

CCSD teachers and coaches noted that the pilot program helped to improve the participants’ homework completion and grades, improve students’ conduct, and increased attendance both during the school day and in after-school sports programing. To maximize the program’s impact, CCSD has identified sports programs that will most benefit from this partnership.

“The mentoring relationship helped our student-athletes see themselves where the mentors are and allowed our students to have less apprehension on working on STEM concepts with the UGA students,” said CCSD teacher and coach Daniel Culliver. “This partnership between CCSD and UGA is a perfect collaboration.”

The UGA students who participated in the pilot program said that they developed meaningful relationships with their CCSD mentees and enjoyed learning from and supporting the middle school teachers who serve as coaches.

“This program is a great example of the mutually beneficial nature of our partnership with CCSD,” said Mary Frances Early College of Education Dean Denise Spangler. “The middle school students benefit from having a mentoring relationship with college students who care about both their academic and athletic pursuits, and UGA students developed empathy and a desire to continue to be involved in community service with youth. Several students from the spring cohort now are serving as volunteer coaches at the school as a result of this experience.”