The Summit Education Initiative (SEI) began in 1996, when leaders of the community surrounding Akron, Ohio, came together to form the original framework of the network. In 2006, around 50 community leaders met again to discuss the direction of SEI and its role in the community. Since then, SEI has been leading the community’s commitment to supporting the success of children in Summit County. Through intervention that helps to empower community members, SEI strives for every student to graduate high school “prepared, passionate, and persistent with a plan to be enrolled, employed, or enlisted.” As can be surmised from the network’s name, SEI mainly focuses on educational success as a catalyst for their vision to come to fruition.
Recently, the network has intervened more frequently in early childhood years, focusing primarily on time from birth to three years old. Some types of programs in this area include educating and delivering tools to expectant mothers or new mothers and fathers during the child’s first year. Recently, the County Executive asked SEI to take over the First Things First Program, which focuses on health and developmental outcomes for children ages 0-5. First Things First also includes an educational component, which is mostly focused on preschool, home visitation, and school readiness. Through intervention at such a young age, SEI can identify at-risk populations earlier on and, thus, help provide resources much earlier in life.
SEI also works with the 30 Million Word Institute from The University of Chicago, planning to use educational video interventions and other tools developed by the institute to help inform parents and give community members what is necessary to help at-risk youth. The program is delivered through pediatric offices and newborn clinics. Supplementing the videos is a community-wide TMW communications plan that promotes the 3T’s: Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns.
Another successful intervention implemented by SEI is the First 45 Days program. This program is based on empirical proof that students typically keep the same GPA as their GPA after the first 45 days, or first quarter, of high school. If students do move out of their GPA bracket, they overwhelmingly drop from the middle range to the lowest. The First 45 Days program helps schools to identify which students may need extra assistance. With the help of SEI, many schools have helped students to increase their GPA. This program is especially important for African American students, who overwhelmingly tend to become “stuck” with the same GPA as they receive from the onset.
SEI is doing incredible work in Summit County and Ohio as well, engaging community members and creating change in educational success for at-risk students. Moving forward, they are looking to continue to inspire community members to become involved with the mission. The network is also taking steps to diversify intervention and create culturally sensitive and relevant programming for all students.