Wireman says there are kids in school who are neither the shooting stars of academia or the already-served receiving emergency assistance to keep from failing. Lightbulb plans to serve the kids in this group — the ones who may be silently slipping — before they fall behind or those who just need a little personal attention to unlock their potential.
How Wireman sees it working is, first, teachers will identify candidates, and needs will be assessed through teacher and parent interviews.
“It will be a whole-child approach,” she says.”You can’t expect a child without adequate nutrition to do well in school so we will get the child what is needed whatever that is.”
Then a volunteer will be hand-selected and trained to work with that particular child, as a mentor as much as a tutor. They are shopping for a facility that kids will be transported to by buses one to four days a week, as prescribed. After a snack and a short transition time of play, each child will receive one-on-one focused lightbulb time.
Isn’t this kind of time and attention devoted to a single child expensive?
Actually, it’s priceless.
As in free.
Wireman says if there is ever going to be a model created like the one she envisions, the time is now and the place is Danville.
“Any time anyone tries to address what we know kids need, they always run into the same two problems — no money and no support,” she says. “That is simply not the case in Danville. We have enough of both here.”
The money is coming from a business whose altruistic impact ultimately may put it out of business. SelfRefind provides a medical approach to addiction recovery using suboxone therapy, which proponents say works by breaking the addiction cycle through solving the craving problem without destroying a life. Some of the money the business makes has gone back into the community through the Hand Up Group that operates Harvesting Hope. In two years, Harvesting Hope has become Kentucky’s largest safety-net food bank for 1,000 local families. Besides also funding the Lightbulb Learning Center, the organization plans multi-family homes for families out of work and out of a house. Because of the benefits of the company’s non-profit services, safe, well-fed and educated kids may never need the company’s for-profit services.
A good start-up source solves the money problem, but what about community support?
The Bonner Program is students at Centre College who are part of national group active in communities to fight poverty through improving education. This group, along with area retired teachers and others, are already coming forward to lend their energy and talents.
“I meet with an advisory committee that includes Danville school Superintendent Carmen Coleman and Sandy Embree, both central office representatives; Amber Sellars and Bryan Wood, Hand Up Group representatives; and Wendy Pruitt and Elizabeth Stamps, teacher representatives, who round out the board,” says Wireman. “I¿have had nothing but support from wherever I need it.”
Dedicated volunteers are an essential part of formulas Wireman has seen working in programs she is studying in trips to Denver and Boston and Indianapolis and Houston.
“I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel here because there are already some really good programs out there,” she says. There will be oversight in the form of measuring progress using, among other indicators, an outside company called Youth Program Quality Assurance, but the intention is to keep any red tape from obscuring what is now a very clear vision statement: “Students, parents, teachers, and coaches working as a collaborative, united group all with a common goal: to help the student succeed.”