Pasco News

YMCA rings the BELL for summer education initiative

This summer the YMCA of the Suncoast is teaming up with Building Educated Leaders for Life to help local youngsters in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Their goal is to decrease the amount of learning that kids miss out on or the knowledge they might forget during the long summer break.

“It’s extremely important for narrowing the achievement gap,” said Eric Keaton, vice president for marketing and communications for the Clearwater-based YMCA of the Suncoast, which includes the James P. Gills Family YMCA in Trinity.

“Kids with access to computers and critical leaning resources perform well and pick up on learning quicker in August when the school year begins again,” Keaton added during an interview. “Many other young students don’t and as a result experience learning loss”.

More than 100 children are covered by the new program this summer at area YMCAs, Keaton emphasized.

“That’s over 10 times the number of children that were previously able to participate last summer,” Keaton said. “That’s ten times the number of children that will be able to continue making great strides in areas such as critical thinking, creative expression and intellectual confidence with the guidance of their teachers. That’s 10 times the number of futures that’s widened a bit more than they may have the previous summer. This is an impressive leap forward for our community.”

One mother said she could already see the impact the program was having on her daughters, ages 7 and 9, Keaton related.

To the delight and amusement of their mother, the young girls came home after a day of learning with ideas about how to recycle their home’s trash into art. On top of that they shared their experiences with their younger brother.

The YMCA hosted a CEO Open House event to share progress of the program with YMCA CEO, Tiffany Gueye, and BELL employees. They were able to see first-hand how their program had evolved and toured classes at YMCA.

Children in the program devote much of the morning to reading and writing. In the afternoon, they’re engaged in enrichment activities, like creative expression of ideas through artwork. The youngsters have gone to a zoo for a field trip.

The local fire department is scheduled to bring the action to them for the next trip.

The Gills facility is at 8411 Photonics Drive. Call (727) 375-9622 or visit the website at

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