United Community Centers, Inc. is serious about serving and empowering those in need by creating opportunities to enrich lives within the community.

Doing so for children is the goal of UCC’s Summer Education Enrichment Program, which is part of Read Fort Worth’s Summer Scholars Collaborative. The Collaborative consists of 12 programs at more than 60 sites serving more than 3,000 kids, each with a purposeful literacy component designed to help prevent “summer slide,” the loss of literacy levels between school years.

UCC’s extensive summer program, running from June 3 to Aug. 9, served 461 kids at its three centers (Bethlehem, Polytechnic and Wesley) and four Fort Worth ISD elementary campuses (Diamond Hill, Eastern Hills, T.A. Sims and De Zavala). UCC provided specialized Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) at all seven locations, employing 15 FWISD certified teachers, as well as another 12 teacher aides, and 10 retired FWISD teachers and literacy coaches. UCC also works closely with the four campus principals of the onsite campuses.

“Our goal is for every child to maintain and hopefully increase their reading level they had reached at the end of the school year,” said Don Campion, a member of UCC’s administrative staff. “In our LLI program, our goal is for this intensive intervention to help the lowest performing students gain several reading levels by the end of this program.”

Two students measured on Aug. 1 gained seven levels, which Campion called a “remarkable achievement.” But it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the contributions made locally by UCC, a nonprofit organization in affiliation with the United Methodist Church and United Way of Tarrant County. The three community centers are in neighborhoods where more than 90 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line.

UCC also partners closely with FWISD, where the vast majority of the kids come from. A typical program day begins with children arriving by 8:30 a.m. before breakfast. Instruction begins at 9 a.m. with a two-hour literacy block. Kids in the LLI program get three hours. Fun activities fill the rest of the day, including field trips, STEM, arts and crafts, board games, gym time, playground time, computer lab activities, and guest readers and speakers. They also receive snacks and dinner before the day ends at 6 p.m.

The only eligibility requirement for the UCC summer program is that the child must be enrolled in school and parents must complete an application.

UCC’s reach goes far beyond the elementary students in the summer program. The nonprofit offers the ACT III program, which promotes teenagers doing community service projects, college readiness, mock job interviews, local tours of colleges and universities, field trips to museums, financial literacy, and attending presentations from experts in youth development, substance abuse prevention and mindfulness.

“UCC benefits the community by helping those who are most in need have a safe place where they are served and empowered to help themselves,” Campion said.

UCC also provides literacy and other programs, such as food and clothing, throughout the year for all ages. The learn more about United Community Centers, including how to volunteer and provide financial support, please visit unitedcommunitycenters.org.

Story by Art Garcia