The Beans and Rice, Inc. program is in its second year of being funded by the 21st Century grant from the Virginia Department of Education. The program partnered with the Radford City schools for four years now, but the 21st Century Grant has allowed it to expand the program even further by taking the children on field trips and providing more tools for day-to-day learning.
The 21st Century Grant is a federally-funded initiative that is distributed and monitored by the states. The grant written by executive director Eric Bucey, was planned in partnership with Radford City Schools, which helps the program to support the school system.
“It makes it so much easier and more stream-lined for us,” Arlene Montgomery, the Out-of-School-Time Site Coordinator, said. “That includes the snack that we get after school and during the summer program. The money comes from the 21st Century fund, but the school helps to provide it so it is already in the cafeteria for the students.”
In addition, the fund also helps to provide bagged lunches and the space for the program to work with students in the schools free of charge.
This grant provides funding for community learning centers. It supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.
The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.
Beans and Rice, Inc. originally began at community centers at low-income housing areas. It was created out of a college classroom where professors wanted to create coursework that made students more involved in community service. One of the first programs Beans and Rice, Inc. did was to provide an afterschool daycare and school programs.
Now, Beans and Rice, Inc. improves the economic well being of low-to-moderate income families through hunger relief, after-school programs that improve educational opportunity for at-risk children, job creation for low-to-moderate income families, and savings programs that help families buy their first home and children save for education.
While the program takes place during the school year, each summer Beans and Rice, Inc. runs five days a week for five weeks in July to provide academic and fun activities for low-income children. The students are able to arrive in the mornings on public transportation, also provided by the 21st Century fund.
“Public transportation is such a barrier to access,” Montgomery said. The students arrive and are provided meals before heading to the scheduled academic block, which is led by teachers that work in Radford. The teachers are often familiar with the children they are working with which helps to provide a better academic experience for the children.
The students also get to participate in an enrichment block where they are rotated through three stations: arts and crafts, music, and fitness. The stations are led by AmeriCorps, which partners with Beans and Rice, to provide activities for the students. AmeriCorps programs provide volunteers for the Beans and Rice, Inc. initiative from colleges and other institutions in the area.
“It’s a great way to plug in younger individuals that are interest in education or interested in social services,” said Montgomery. “It’s a great way for people to build their resume but also have a lot of extra help with the teachers and assistants that are there.”
After the enrichment block, the students get to go home again using the school buses.
One of the newer aspects of the program that started last year with the 21st Century Grant, is that the program is able to take students on field trips every Friday. The trips include going to the Barter Theater in Abington or to Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. In the week leading up to the trip, students are given activities that teach them about the place they are going to visit. The activities incorporate different areas of academics from math to reading and prepare students to expand their interests.
“Under the grant the kids don’t have to worry about anything. We take care of the food, the transportation, the tickets, the students just have to say yes or no,” said Montgomery. “It’s wonderful to be able to do that and offer that.”
This year the program was able to for a partnership with Radford Public Library and Glencoe Museum Barbra Taite and Scott Gardner. This partnership helps to provide students with different activities and trips offered by Glencoe and the Radford Public Library.
The program has a limited amount of availability and there is a waitlist for students to get in during the school year and summer months. Students are accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis, but they are also considered based off of their need.
Montgomery said that the teachers are more than willing to accept more students above the cap. In fact, Montgomery said that the teachers were pushing for even more students to be brought into the program.
“We have so many kids that want to be in program and families that honestly we had a waitlist all year long and even now there’s a wait list,” Montgomery said. “I hate that we can’t take everyone, but I think it’s wonderful showing how it is already growing and impacting the community.”
For more information on Beans and Rice, Inc. programs, go to beansbandrice.org.