Contact: Jane Jankowski
Phone: 317/232-1622

For Immediate Release: Dec 29, 2005
Governor's program to tackle achievement gap in Indiana youngsters

INDIANAPOLIS (December 29, 2005) – Governor Mitch Daniels is launching a new statewide program today that is aimed at improving the education prospects of low income children, particularly minorities. He has recruited Jermaine O’Neal of the Indiana Pacers to serve as team captain for Mitch’s Kids, an effort to enroll 5,000 more 5- to 12-year-old at-risk youngsters in the Boys & Girls Club after-school POWER Hour program next year.

“Among challenges in Indiana none tugs at our hearts more than the way in which too many low income children lag behind in school,” said the governor, who made the announcement at the Wheeler Boys & Girls Club in Indianapolis. “We searched for a program with proven results and found one at the Boys & Girls Clubs.”

The governor has committed $1 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to serve an additional 5,000 eligible students in 2006. His goal is to increase the number of children participating in the program by 5,000 each subsequent year while retaining as many children as possible as long as they are program eligible. Youngsters who qualify for free or reduced lunch will be eligible for Mitch’s Kids. The Boys and Girls Club, which came up with the name Mitch’s Kids, will work with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to identify and enroll eligible children. There are 66 Boys & Girls Clubs located throughout Indiana.

O’Neal will visit area Boys & Girls Clubs on occasion, and Pacers Sports and Entertainment has committed to donate game tickets for a boy and girl from each club who show the most improvement during the program.

“Last summer I met with Governor Daniels and told him I wanted to become more involved with helping inner-city kids be better students and become better citizens. I already know what a difference the Boys & Girls Club can make in the life of a child, and Mitch’s Kids will make it possible for more kids to obtain help and encouragement to do well in school,” said O’Neal.

The POWER Hour is an after-school program that targets math and reading skills development while helping kids develop good daily homework habits. The POWER Hour program, developed by Boys & Girls Clubs of America, focuses on improving reading and math fluencies by enabling members to complete their homework, receive individualized tutoring, and prepare for class with staff and volunteer encouragement and assistance. The activities conducted in this program will relate to Indiana State Academic Standards.

Overall goals of POWER Hour are to:

• increase math and reading fluencies

• help children develop greater confidence in their academic abilities

• increase school attendance rates

• improve the quality and quantity of completed homework

• improve rates of high school graduation

• improve students’ behavior and attitude towards school and learning

According to Boys & Girls Clubs statistics, one national study of POWER Hour showed an 11 percent increase in overall grade point average (GPA), with a 16 percent increase in math GPA and 9 percent increase for reading GPA by youngsters who participated in the program. The students reduced the number of days they were absent from school by 66 percent.

The progress of each Mitch’s Kid participant will be verified and documented through attendance records as well as testing before and after participation to measure increases in math and reading skills. Those who enroll in Mitch’s Kids will participate for a minimum of 30 homework or tutoring sessions over at least 9 weeks and up to 16 weeks.

“Mitch’s Kids represents an incredible opportunity to help some of Indiana’s most deserving and needy kids succeed in school by creating a positive environment for them to complete their homework and providing tutoring to improve their reading and math skills,” said Mark Branch, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Indianapolis. “Governor Daniels and Jermaine O’Neal understand that youth are a precious commodity, and the future success of Indiana rests in the hands of young people. Because of their support, Boys & Girls Clubs across the state will be able to provide these necessary services to thousands of additional young people.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis will serve as the Indiana Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs’ fiscal and reporting agent for Mitch’s Kids.