Starkville after-school programs need funding

March 6, 2009

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- A series of after-school programs in Starkville needs community support in order to survive, a Starkville School District project coordinator said this morning. 


Jim Gassaway, coordinator of the school district''s ASSETS program, discussed the need for community funding at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership''s power breakfast. ASSETS stands for After School and Summer Equal Total Success. 


The program focuses on providing a safe after-school environment for at-risk students and students who might need a little extra attention, among others, SSD Superintendent Judy Couey said after the breakfast. Students are provided with academic support, such as tutoring services, test preparation and homework help, as well as physical activities, like basketball and other sports.  


The program, which is hosted at seven sites around Starkville, also offers arts and music, plus activities to improve personal skills and lifestyle choices, as part of its curriculum. 


According to Gassaway, the program received about $373,000 from a federal grant in 2006 and 2007. For the 2008-09 school year, the program received 80 percent of the grant -- or about $303,000 -- and had to provide a 20 percent match. 


Next school year, the district will receive 60 percent of the grant, with the understanding the school district will match with 40 percent. Then for the 2010-2011 school year, the district will receive only 40 percent of the grant and will have to match it with 60 percent. 


By 2011-12, the district is supposed to be self-sufficient and pay for the ASSETS program itself.  


The same funding formula is set up for a second grant the district receives. The second grant began in the 2007-08 school year and totals nearly $282,000. Next year will be the first year the district has to pay a 20 percent match. 


Now the school district is calling on local banks, businesses, faith-based organizations and others to donate to the program so it can remain up and running. 


Gassaway cited statistics among the 344 students enrolled in the program which show those who attend have seen improved grades and test scores, an increased desire to attend college and improved attitudes toward school, among other changes. 


"These after-school students are our future and we want to provide opportunities to better these students for the future of our community workforce," Gassaway said.