Written by Hilary Totin
Submitted by DICK'S Sporting Goods
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
This is the mindset that the team behind The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation shared when they launched a special partnership with the McKeesport Area School District near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania back in May 2022. The goal was to give students at Twin Rivers Elementary and their families proper resources and programming to support not only their learning, but also their holistic well-being.
Fast forward to January 2024:
“We wanted the school to feel like a home away from home,” said Communications and Corporate Relations Specialist Jack Higgins. “Not just by providing different resources, but by creating a positive culture and climate for all.”
A pivotal part of creating such change was restructuring the school day to include the Ready to Learn initiative and Midday Block.
“The Ready to Learn initiative is based on the premise that we can’t assume children show up every day ready to learn,” said Jaclyn Castma, education associate executive director.
Each morning, students are greeted with a Wellness Welcome. Students in grades K-2 identify how they’re feeling emotionally on a board when they enter the classroom, while students in grades 3-5 check in electronically through an app. They then take part in daily discussion circles to consistently nurture both peer-to-peer and peer-to-teacher relationships.
“The kids see school as a safe place,” said United at Twin Rivers Principal Brandy Daye. “They know there are people here to support them and listen. They’re open and honest with us now more than ever.”
The initiative also led to the hiring of six Learning Relationship Specialists (LRS). Their role is to act as first responders within the school and ensure that students are getting what they need to be their best and return to class ready to learn.
“Our mission doesn’t just focus on a student’s education, but treating each student as their own person,” said Family and Community Advocate Latoya Brownfield. “We want our students to not only be academically successful, but also physically and mentally healthy.”
LRS also facilitate the Midday Block, along with administrators and counselors, to provide all students with 30 minutes of play each day before or after their 30-minute lunch period. This structure also frees up teachers to take a full hour break to rest, recharge and prepare for the second half of the day.
Before the partnership with The DICK’S Foundation, Castma said students only had a 30-minute lunch period between classes, and the playground on the school’s campus was not utilized.
“During COVID, students weren’t allowed to go on the playground. Sadly, that practice stuck post-pandemic,” Castma said.
Now when the weather allows, Midday Block play happens on the newly renovated playground. The renovation was completed in time for the start of the 2023-2024 school year and includes brand new equipment and a small turf soccer field.
The partnership doesn’t just benefit McKeesport Area School District students and their families, but also the entire McKeesport community thanks to a Community Resource Center on campus.
The Community Resource Center is open during the school day and features a food pantry, free clothes and shoes, a laundry facility and showers. There’s also a health hub with ongoing healthcare programming, such as COVID and flu shot clinics.
Brownfield said the partnership provides a bridge between the community and the district. “It builds relationships, brings the community inside the school and creates a sense of belonging.”
The DICK’S Foundation hopes the success of this partnership will inspire other organizations and foundations to partner with school districts in their own backyard.
“This is important work,” Higgins said. “We’re shaping our future.”
Founded in 1948, DICK'S Sporting Goods is a leading omni-channel sporting goods retailer offering an extensive assortment of authentic, high-quality sports equipment, apparel, footwear and accessories. As of October 30, 2021, the Company operated 734 DICK'S Sporting Goods locations across the United States, serving and inspiring athletes and outdoor enthusiasts to achieve their personal best through a combination of its dedicated teammates, in-store services and unique specialty shop-in-shops dedicated to Team Sports, Athletic Apparel, Golf, Outdoor, Fitness and Footwear.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, DICK'S also owns and operates Golf Galaxy, Field & Stream and Public Lands specialty stores, as well as GameChanger, a youth sports mobile app for scheduling, communications, live scorekeeping and video streaming. DICK'S offers its products through a dynamic eCommerce platform that is integrated with its store network and provides athletes with the convenience and expertise of a 24-hour storefront.
For more information, visit the Investor Relations page at dicks.com.
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