Over four years ago, the Sylvan Learning in McAllen partnered with the McAllen Boys & Girls Club to create academic programming to address the educational needs of local students. Today, Sylvan Learning and Boys & Girls Clubs Texas Alliance announce an academic partnership to expand its educational programs to approximately 30 new sites statewide — Amarillo, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Houston, Laredo, McAllen, San Antonio, San Marcos and Victoria to name a few.

The partnership between Sylvan Learning and Boys & Girls Clubs Texas Alliance has grown in order to meet the needs of rural and urbanizing communities with a disproportionate number of minority students living below the poverty level.

For example, during the 2003/2004 school year, according to Laura Hinojosa, State Board Member of the Texas Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs, the cities now served by the academic partnership averaged a 70 percent graduation rate, as compared to 82.8 percent statewide. These same regions also averaged only 10 percent of their students at the high school level scoring at or above the criterion recommended for the SAT, and approximately 56 percent use a primary home language other than English with more than 90 percent classified as Title 1.

“Sylvan Learning is proud to have been a community partner with the Boys & Girls Club for many years. Our joint goal is to find new and innovative ways to help at-risk minority students develop the skills, habits and attitudes needed for lifelong success, while decreasing the high school drop-out rate,” says Susan Valverde of Sylvan Learning in McAllen, Texas. “Texas has among the lowest high school graduation rates in America. If we are to remain competitive in a global economy, Sylvan Learning and Boys & Girls Clubs must address student and community needs by creating innovative and holistic academic programs that encourage the educational development of our local youth.”

Sylvan Learning offers nearly 30 years of researched-based proven success that has helped more than two million children develop a love of learning. Sylvan’s experience is coupled with Boys & Girls Clubs’ history of more than 100-years enabling all young people to realize their full potential as responsible, productive and caring citizens. Key success factors of the new, statewide partnership include small group instruction allowing for individual attention, as well as program placement and delivery based on skill gaps and personalized learning styles.

“While traditional Boys & Girls Club programming addresses prevention as well as recreation, Sylvan Learning supplements the Boys & Girls Club academic component,” says Normalynda Zepeda, Program Mentor & Tutor at the Boys & Girls Club in McAllen, Texas. “Through joint delivery of this academic program, students receive seamless services from two strong partners. Further, the staff development that Boys & Girls Clubs receive from partnership with Sylvan Learning enables growth and capacity building for our clubs. It is a win-win situation for our local community and our local students.”

Boys & Girls Clubs Texas Alliance and the local Sylvan Learning centers hope to replicate the regional success of this partnership in hopes of creating a national educational program to help local students achieve their academic goals.

“By sharing best practices with other Texas communities, Boys & Girls Clubs and Sylvan Learning will be able to impact thousands of local families, educators and students,” says State Senator Chuy Hinojosa, serving District 20. “Community investment in this partnership is an investment in the educational future of the entire State of Texas,” echoes State Representative Veronica Gonzales serving District 41.

For additional information on the statewide partnership between the Texas Alliance of the Boys & Girls Clubs and Sylvan Learning, visit www.txbgc.org or www.begreatmcallen.org.

Laura L. Reagan-Porras is a sociologist and Chief Professional Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen. She can be reached for questions or comments at lreagan_porras@bgcmcallen.org.