This Louisville native heads the local arm of an organization that’s committed to improving literacy and bridging the gap between home and school.
A common criticism of summer vacation is that, especially for students who may be falling behind, this disruptive break in in-school lessons can prove detrimental. Now more than ever, when most children are attending school remotely, equipping parents with the tools required to take the handoff from educators and continue the work at home is crucial.
National literacy nonprofit Springboard Collaborative – with the help of GreenLight Fund Detroit and other local partners – launched its program in Detroit last summer with a mission of improving literacy and bridging the gap between home and school.
With tailored family workshops that invite parents into the (virtual) classroom, through the summer months, Springboard Collaborative was able to teach hundreds of Detroit families to implement tips and practices in an effort to improve reading skills in pre-K through sixth grade students. That work has continued into the fall semester. Educators and school administrators also learn how to meaningfully engage with parents and bring them to the table.
Midwest executive director Brittany Merritt says, “We really empower families to be coaches. A child, 75% of their waking hours are with their parents. So, our CEO envisioned an untapped resource and that’s leveraging parents to be able to be ambassadors – and providing them with the tools at home to be literacy coaches.”
The Springboard Collaborative program employs Family-Educator Learning Accelerators: five- to 10-week cycles during which teachers and parents team up to support learning at home and the child’s reading goals.
“Pre-COVID, we delivered our program exclusively in person. So, we really had to pivot back in March and be able to provide meaningful and impactful programming virtually,” Merritt says. “Keeping that same family engagement methodology remotely has been effective just as it was when we were pre-COVID.”
Merritt also adds that launching a virtual offering opened up new partnership opportunities. She says Springboard is now serving families in twice as many cities as would’ve been possible before, allowing them to reach rural communities, especially.
Merritt came on board as the first Midwest executive director in October. States including Illinois, Missouri and the Dakotas will be within her wheelhouse, but, Merritt says, “Detroit, I want it to be the epicenter of the Midwest.”
Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, it was her dad’s career with Ford Motor Company that moved the family to Michigan. Prior to her role with Springboard Collaborative, Merritt spent 13 years with the American Heart Association, 10 of those dedicated to youth, teaching healthy habits and fighting against childhood obesity.
In that position, she regularly worked with schools and youth-focused organizations, going on to become the first Black executive director for the greater Detroit area. So, Merritt says, while the realm of traditional education is new, engaging children, parents and educators and imploring them to work together toward a common goal is not. She says those partnerships are paramount to Springboard Collaborative’s mission of having helped 100,000 students reach reading goals by the end of 2022. “We see ourselves as a catalyst.”
Springboard Collaborative is also rolling out a professional development program for onsite teachers who want to become administrators of the program, and they hope to forge a partnership with Detroit Public Schools Community District in the near future. For parents looking to implement best practices at home, Merritt says repetition is key.
She encourages parents interested in Springboard’s programs to reach out to teachers and school administrators to connect with the org. “Our goal is to continue to work with schools to increase the landscape and provide literacy gains.”
For more information on Springboard Collaborative, visit springboardcollaborative.org.