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A ‘Cradle to Career’ Approach to Education

University of Idaho Boise partners with local nonprofit to support preK-16 education in the Treasure Valley

Nayden grabs a book and eats his lunch at Luby Park in Caldwell. For an hour and a half, community volunteers are also at the park reading stories, providing hands-on STEM activities and raffling prizes like free bikes.

Around the third-grade student, a dozen kids ages 5-12 are reading, taking part in STEM activities and having a healthy lunch. The scene repeats itself throughout the summer across the Treasure Valley in Nampa’s Sherman Elementary and in Kuna’s Reed Elementary.

The free book and meal is part of Book and Bite, a program aimed at maintaining early grade reading during the summer months. Research shows that reading at grade level is one of the strongest predictors of later success in school.

Over the past two years, Book and a Bite has served more than 6,000 meals, given away over 5,000 books and delivered over 7,000 hands-on STEM activities.

The program is the brainchild of RISE — Treasure Valley’s Education Partnership, and one of the programs University of Idaho Boise supports across the Treasure Valley via its community engagement initiatives.

U of I Boise has supported the organization by volunteering staff time as well as providing leadership and as-needed resources as the organization establishes itself in the region.

With a focus on community impact, regional economic development and university growth, U of  I Boise is trying to increase the number of students attending college in a proactive and innovative way: by supporting, partnering and collaborating with local organizations that focus on education from pre-K through college.

“If you work in the education world, it makes sense to have a ‘from cradle to career’ approach,” said Mike Satz, executive officer at U of I Boise. “Pre-K and early education are strong indicators of kids’ success later in life, including a correlation in the increased rates of students going to college.”

Nayden from Caldwell, shows the Book and Bite book he is taking home.
If you work in the education world, it makes sense to have a ‘from cradle to career’ approach. Pre-K and early education are strong indicators of kids’ success later in life, including a correlation in the increased rates of students going to college. Mike Satz, executive officer at U of I Boise

Among the different organizations U of I Boise supports in the Treasure Valley, RISE stands apart for its collective nature. RISE groups together 70 organizations including school districts, institutions of higher education, youth centers, businesses, foundations, community groups and government organizations.

It was created to look at ways to improve education outcomes across the entire Treasure Valley, which spans four southwest Idaho counties and serves one-third of Idaho’s public school students (over 200,000 youth and students across nine school districts and six colleges).

Tom enjoys a STEM activity during Book and Bite in Caldwell.

For Satz, having the university support organizations such as RISE through U of I Boise makes sense because the results are proving to be a positive asset for the state and its families. In addition to its collaborative approach, RISE focuses on measuring its programs’ progress and success and — in the three years since it started implementing different programs — has reported a 53 percent increase in prepared preschoolers and 78 percent increase of reading scores in participating Kuna students.

Satz serves as chair of the RISE executive committee, and two other U of I Boise employees also serve key roles with the organization — Danielle Horras, U of I Boise director of strategic initiatives, serves as interim executive director and Matt Vaarstra, U of I Career Services assistant director, serves in the Beyond High School working group.

Satz, Horras and Vaarstra work alongside other key Treasure Valley leaders, including the Kuna and Nampa school district superintendents; the CEOs of Idaho Business for Education, Treasure Valley Family YMCA and United Way of Treasure Valley; and representatives from Boise State University, College of Western Idaho and Idaho State University.

Roselyn from Caldwell, shows the Book and Bite book she is taking home.

“I have worked side by side with Mike Satz as he served as the chair of RISE. Under his leadership, school districts have benefited from a reduction in summer reading loss in our participating schools, better access to college admissions and enrollment,” said Wendy Johnson, Kuna School District superintendent and RISE vice-chair. “In Kuna, we have seen a 55 percent increase in the number of students who have enrolled at the University of Idaho. Mike has done this by ensuring that the right people are at the table to lead this important work by bringing business and industry leaders alongside K-12 and university leaders. I truly believe that without his leadership, we would not be making these critical gains for our children.”

At the last Book and Bite, Nayden chose a book about a turtle because he wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up. Thanks to RISE, he will be more prepared to succeed in school and, later in life, go to college to make his dream a reality.

romeo and rosealyn
Romeo and Rosealyn, from Caldwell, show the Book and Bite books they are taking home.

Article by Maria Ortega, University of Idaho Boise

Published July 2019.

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