Oakman Middle benefits from YMCA programs


An after-school program at Oakman Middle School is producing life-changing outcomes.

The program began in October 2016 at the school to provide a safe haven for students after school, where they are fed, receive help with homework and complete and educational and physical fitness activities.    

Tess Kimbrell spoke on behalf of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham — the program's sponsor — at last Thursday's Walker County Board of Education meeting. She provided an update on the program's success since its inception, and said 65 Oakman students in Grades K-8 are currently being served.

She said the goal is to eventually have 100 youth registered for the after-school academy which is held Monday through Friday for three hours once school is dismissed.

One of the program's main goals is to improve student retention in math, reading and science and increase academic engagement. According to recent statistics, students at Oakman's after-school academy have shown a gain of three months in reading, as well as  a month and a half gain in math.

While some educational aspects of the program are geared toward all students, very specific help is given based on the school's curriculum.  

"We do all of our academic portions of the program based on what students are doing in math and science in their everyday classrooms," Kimbrell said.

The after-school academy also strives to improve student behavior and attendance and encourage family involvement and community partnerships.

In addition to the after-school program, YMCA also offers a Power Scholars Academy at Oakman in the summer. This past summer's theme was "Around the World in 30 Days" and gave students an opportunity to explore popular places in the surrounding area.  

"Every Friday the students attend a field trip. Some of those included the Birmingham Zoo, McWane Science Center, and we did two college tours to the University of Alabama," Kimbrell said.

At the completion of the free six-week summer program, 84 students this past year gave a performance based on what they had learned and received certificates and medals for taking part in the summer academy.

The after-school and summer programs are funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, and are made possible through a partnership between YMCA of Greater Birmingham, Walker County Schools and the United Way of Central Alabama. The Walker County Health Action Partnership, Walker Area Community Foundation and others have also made the program possible.

"We thank y'all for allowing YMCA to be the program provider for the after-school program," Kimbrell told board members.

Walker County Board of Education Chairman Brad Ingle commented, "There's a lot of good work going on there."