Achieve Columbia

Achieve Columbia is a non-profit which focuses on mitigating the effects of childhood trauma and building resiliency so that kids have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

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Achieve Columbia works with students who live in poverty and who have suffered significant trauma - Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Research has shown that children who have experienced ACEs have an increased risk of negative outcomes as an adolescent and adult. Research also suggests that a stable relationship with an adult is one of the best ways to influence children who have experienced ACEs. Achieve Columbia builds long-lasting and deep relationships with our kids and their families to mitigate the impact of trauma and build resiliency moving forward. Beginning in middle school, we use a unique combination of group and individualized mentoring, tutoring, resource coordination, and counseling to ensure that every student in Achieve has the opportunity to succeed in school, learn about the world, and find their place in it. We continue working with these kids and their families through high school graduation. Essentially, we become an extension of their family.

Achieve Columbia is currently embedded at Hand Middle School. We are working with approximately 40 7th grade students and their teachers as well as smaller cohorts of students in the 8th through 12th grades. This is the first year we have been able to work full time in a middle school and to work with this number of students. We are seeing significant gains in student behavior and academics. Achieve has structured tutoring programs and life skills development but is also flexible enough to address the unique needs of our many families. For example, if a child needs therapy, Achieve sets it up and transports them. If a family is evicted from their home, Achieve works with the family to find stable, suitable housing and gets any resources that are available to help the transition. We also help fund and provide transportation for students' extracurricular activities - karate lessons, trumpet lessons, and improv classes to name a few. In short we try to provide the structure and support for these kids that will form the foundation for a successful life beyond high school.
The best way to really understand what Achieve Columbia does is through the students with whom we work. Trenton, a senior, and James, an eighth grader, exemplify the types of students and successes that we are seeing.

In elementary and the first part of middle school Trenton struggled academically and behaviorally. He had low grades and a ton of behavioral issues. Since joining Achieve Columbia in 8th grade, Trenton has not had a single disciplinary referral - he is now finishing his senior year of high school. And academically Trenton has soared. Despite being busy with 3 sports - football, basketball, and track - as well as Dreher's excellent chorus program, Trenton has consistently made the A/B Honor Roll. He has been accepted by a number of colleges, including Presbyterian College and USC Upstate. When asked about the impact Achieve Columbia had on his life, Trenton replied, "I just began to care." We cannot wait to see the great things in Trenton's future.

James tragically lost his step-father to violence at the end of his sixth grade year. He joined Achieve 3 months later. You would be hard pressed to meet a sweeter or harder working kid than James. With the help of of a wonderful group of people - teachers, community mentors, and the Achieve social worker - James has soared. He made straight A's in the 7th grade. He also participated in an improv class at the Children's Theatre. He was the youngest - and reportedly the funniest - student in the class. And this year - as an 8th grader - James was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. James was also the lead in the 8th grade's Beauty and the Beast school play. Finally, James is a very talented dancer. He has already been accepted into the Dreher dance class for next year. We expect great things from James and feel privileged that we are part of his life.
In order to increase the number of students we serve, Achieve Columbia has a full-time Student Services Coordinator who is able to oversee and coordinate all the services we provide. We have also hired a full-time Executive Director to oversee our organization. Through Midlands Gives, we need to continue funding for our full-time employees. Our program centers on people and relationships - that is our overhead. With a fully-funded Student Services Coordinator and Executive Director - as well as our small army of volunteers - we will be able to exponentially increase the number of students we serve. And the more students we serve, the better able we are to actually have a meaningful impact in the community. We have already began to drastically increase the number of students we are working with and have added an additional 40 students in the 2017-2018 school year. Funding through Midlands Gives would allow us to increase the number of students we are able to serve, having a larger impact on Hand Middle School and the greater community.