Wyatt Foundation, local groups join forces

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Jymil Thompson, former principal of Mace’s Lane Middle School, is now working with the John & Janice Wyatt Foundation to foster cooperation among county schools and local non-profit groups.

CAMBRIDGE — The John & Janice Wyatt Foundation is at work in Dorchester County, in an effort to optimize cooperation among local non-profit organizations and public schools. While the work extends through elementary and middle schools, it is focused on early childhood education.

Jymil Thompson was principal of Mace’s Lane Middle School for three years, and now the local representative of Wyatt.
“We’re like a conduit,” he said, among the groups and the schools. “They’ve been receptive.”

“I met Mr. Wyatt and Matt last school year and their vision to help our students with the Wyatt Foundation in Dorchester County is very humbling,” Dorchester County Public Schools Superintendent Dave Bromwell said in a statement to the Banner. “It’s gratifying that they care so much about our students.”
The Foundation is based in Winchester, Va. It is operating in that town, in Fairfax County, Va., and in Dorchester.

The organization’s website says, “The John & Janice Wyatt Foundation is a 501c(3) non-profit, grant-making family foundation established in July 2018. We are intensely focused on creating equity and leveling the playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged children and youth in our geographic service area. Our focus is on early childhood education through high school – the cradle to career pathway – and our goal is to help these children stay engaged and become successful, active citizens in today’s rapidly evolving world.”

The Foundation works in low-income areas, where minority enrollment is over 50%, and more than 67% are eligible for free and reduced meals. Economic and social situations can lead to lower scores in schools: the Foundation’s data shows that in the areas where the group is active, more than 80% of low-income students are not reading on level by third grade.
Falling behind early can then lead to increasing difficulties as the student moves through school and into the workforce. That’s something that local organizations have been addressing.
Harvesting Hope Youth & Family Wellness, Inc., is led by Omeakia Jackson, who works as a therapist in Dorchester schools. The organization’s website says, “Harvesting Hope, Inc is a youth and family services program sowing seeds of hope in the community. We provide behavioral services, mentoring, and literacy support. We also provide community based training opportunities to local youth and families in partnership with local community agencies. Our Mission is to uplift the community by working in the community. Our youth are our greatest asset. When we invest in them we invest in the future of our communities. Some people are born leaders while others need guidance and the tools to become leaders. Harvesting Hope Youth and Family Wellness, Inc sow these seeds while our youth, families, and community reap the benefits.”

New Beginnings Youth & Family Service is led by Dr. Theresa Stafford, who worked as an educator in public schools for more than 30 years. Her group’s website says, “New Beginnings Youth & Family Services was founded to provide a safe, nurturing, and structured environment for children and families in vulnerable and under-resourced communities. New Beginnings offers 2 programs that span over 12 months and offer activities to increase critical thinking skills while creating a positive learning environment for children and their families. We provide a safe space, encouraging positive behavior which has helped reduce suspensions and improve grades.”

The Empowerment Center is operated by the Pine Street Committee. Their website says, “The Empowerment Center mission is to work in partnership with the community to provide youth development through education, skills training, mentorship and other support services. Additionally, we strive to inspire confidence, self-esteem, a desire for lifelong learning, and to contribute to the health and well-being of the Dorchester County youth and community.”

The groups banded together earlier in the year.
Responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, the non-profits established a collaborative body called the Dorchester Academic Support Coalition (DASC). DASC was formed to better communicate information and share resources while supporting disadvantaged out-of-school students.
All three organizations have a long history of working with youth in the community by offering robust after-school and summer programming to over 100 kids every year in the Cambridge area, as well as partnering with the Dorchester County Public School system.
The coalition secured more than 17 tutors and worked with more than 110 children through the end of the spring semester.
Another initiative was a Chromebook outreach effort, in which 9 elementary school children were provided brand-new, donated devices, along with a powerful IXL online curriculum that allows monitoring and evaluation, with instruction to help bolster their virtual learning.

The Foundation provided support for both projects. Establishing a collective impact effort that builds bridges between Dorchester County Public Schools, local non-profits, government and business is a central strategy for the group.
Efforts being taken by the Empowerment Center, Harvesting Hope, and New Beginnings are designed to work with, and in support of, the school district.

The Empowerment Center on Pine Street, managed by the Pine Street Committee Board, operated an in-person learning camp for children four days a week, July 7-Aug. 20. The camp used direction and financial grants from the Wyatt Foundation to provide a fun and educational experience for 14 area children aged 5 to 13.
They met from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and received a lunch from the Md food Bank. Four area high school or college students acted as counselors.
Each child spent a minimum of one and half hours a day, on educational activities. They worked on an online learning program (IXL) and were monitored for progress. The camp also provided organized and safe games, physical exercise and arts and crafts.
“We are currently working on a plan to provide additional tutoring help for students which would supplement in-school or online learning for the upcoming school year,” a statement from the center said.

“The Wyatt Foundation has enhanced the programming that we are able to offer at New Beginnings Youth and Family Services,” Dr. Stafford wrote in a statement to the Banner. “The coordinated efforts under one umbrella to provide continuity in program delivery is also an added bonus. After working with our early learners this summer, there is a dire need to work with our early elementary children to fill in the learning deficits for this population.

“We saw first hand the need of added support to our students during the home-based learning due to COVID-19,” Dr. Stafford wrote. “Our programs worked with youth from April through the summer and see first hand the deficits they face.”
“Harvesting Hope Youth and Family Wellness, Inc. is excited to be part of the coalition,” Ms. Jackson said. “We understand the importance of early childhood education and the need for continued resources for our early learners. We are glad that the Wyatt Foundation has chosen Dorchester County to work with and assist with our early learners.”
The Empowerment Center is located at 615B Pine St., Cambridge. Call 410-901-1397. Visit cambridgeempowermentcenter.com.
Harvesting Hope’s office is at 204 Cedar St., Suite 102, in Cambridge. Call 443-351-4846.

New Beginnings is located at 522 Greenwood Ave. in Cambridge. Call 410-228-1950. Visit newbeginningsyouth.wixsite.com.
The John & Janice Wyatt Foundation is based at 5300 George McKay Lane, Fairfax, Va. Call 540-467-5524, email info@j2wfoundation.org.