A hundred promising middle school students from all over Loudoun got a chance to step into advanced math classes through a summer program this month.
Bridge to Enter Advanced Math, or BEAM, is a five-week summer program with the goal to increase enrollment of students who are economically disadvantaged and living in historically marginalized communities in Honors, Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment classes.
According to Brittany Schjolin, Math Program Coordinator for Loudoun County Public Schools, the students were nominated by their teachers based on their math class. She said if the student wasn’t on an advanced math track but showed promise they were invited to apply.
The BEAM program gives the rising seventh graders an opportunity to participate in an intensive math program to improve their confidence, math content knowledge, and problem-solving skills.
The program started June 22 and runs through July 29. Schjolin said it’s an all-day program and is similar to a summer camp. The day starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. The students have several classes to choose from in addition to a required class on fractions, making a total of four classes for the program. They have activity breaks and challenges throughout the day. Lunch is provided every day from restaurants like CAVA, Chick-fil-a, Chipotle, and Panera among others. Breakfast is also provided a few mornings a week.
Classes are taught by fourth grade, fifth grade and middle school teachers.
The program is entirely funded by grants. The Loudoun Education Foundation (LEF), an independent nonprofit, secured $411, 200 to make the program possible. The funding partners are Jack Kent Cooke Foundation which supplied most of the grant, Equinix Inc. which donated $10,000 and JL Edwards Enterprises which donated $1,200.
BEAM held a July 19 open house to display what they’ve been doing and what they hope to do in the coming years.
Kelly Robucci, a seventh-grade dean at Stone Hill Middle School, walked into the open house to see what it was all about.
She said seven students from her school were invited to attend the summer program.
“It’s a great opportunity to get exposure to new math concepts, reinforce some and help set them up for next year,” said Robucci.
Nicole Augone, a K-12 math supervisor for Loudoun County Public Schools, was one of the grant writers for the program. She said they learned about the BEAM program in 2018 and wanted to bring it to LCPS.
“Our vision is to have this in all of our middle schools all the time to replace summer school,” Augone said.
She said the program offers an incredible experience for the kids, from the education to the activities, to building friendships and building confidence in math.
She said a lot of the kids lacked confidence in their math skills.
“A lot of these kids were told they weren’t good at math or believed they weren’t good at math. And we look at some of these kids and think ‘how could this kid not think he or she was good at math?” Augone said.
Once the program wraps up next Friday, Augone said the goal is to continue to support the students into the upcoming school year.
“I don’t want to say goodbye to these kids yet. We are going to mentor them throughout the year,” said Augone.
But her commitment goes even beyond that.
“My goal is to have these kids back next summer as rising eighth graders before they go into algebra one, that’s the advanced track. I would love to have funding to be able to support them returning next year as well as a new group of rising seventh graders,” said Augone.
She said the grant as it’s written is only for rising seventh graders each year, but she’s hoping to find a way to bring this first group of kids back.
The BEAM program also offers middle schoolers a glimpse into the programs the Academies of Loudoun offer as they move into high school. Many of the programs start taking applications while the student is in 8th grade.
Lacy Stewart, 12, a rising seventh grade student at Simpson Middle School, and Aria Khazai, 12, a rising seventh grader at Seneca Ridge Middle School, were giving tours of the facility and explaining what they do during the program.
Both said it was ‘a really cool experience’ to be in the program and to be at the Academies of Loudoun. They both said they were interested in coming back to the Academies in high school.