24 rising fourth and fifth graders from Altavista Elementary School were chosen to be a part of a BellXcel Power Scholar Program this summer. The program was made possible at the YMCA through a written grant. The scholars will attend the program for four weeks at the Altavista YMCA Family Center. Mrs. Judith Hedgpeth is the on-site director and helps with the enrichment activities along with their academic learning. Ms. Georgie Roark also helps with the academics and has been a great asset to the program, organizers say.

This evidence-based summer program is targeted to strengthen reading and math skills along with hands-on activities, field trips and service projects. The program is designed to help scholars gain new academic and social skills so when they enter school in the Fall, they are ready to excel. Summer learning loss, also known as “the summer slide” is a significant contributor to the achievement gap. So, it is very important to expose children to active learning during off months. If a child is not in an academic program this summer, other options for them include visiting the Altavista Library, or create some simple learning task within your home. 

BellXcel uses five core values as their foundation for a positive culture within the classroom: Excellence, Learning, Courage, Respect and Collaboration. The scholars are seeing how they can incorporate these values not only at school but at home and in their community. Each week, reading lessons were taught that were focused on Belonging, Friendship, and Kindness. 

Ms. Marie Kavanaugh has visited our program each week and has led a Yoga lesson, teaching the children how to breathe and focus on controlling their emotions and relaxing the mind. The students also learned different poses to improve flexibility and strength. She also led a “Kindness Rock Project” with the scholars. She discussed what kindness looks like and how kind words, gestures, or a simple message can change one’s whole day, lookout on life or just put a smile on someone’s face. The scholars were so “into” the project, they thought through their designs and had conversations within their groups on how each rock could help someone. 

The scholars will place the rocks on Thursday, July 22 around businesses in the Downtown Altavista Area in hopes that locals would find them. They hope the Kindness Rocks spread positivity within the town and put a smile on the faces of whoever finds them. Those who find them are more than welcome to take them home, take it to a new location or leave it for the next person to enjoy.  Be on the lookout for a watermelon, a lady bug, peace sign, Stay Strong Military, a strawberry, Love, and many more. The organizers hope the town enjoys this Community project and shares the Kindness.