TWM Gives Back: Academy 4

Ricardo, a 4th grader at one of our Academy 4 partner schools last year, was selectively mute. Selective mutism is a severe anxiety disorder in which a person is unable to speak in certain social situations, such as with classmates at school or to relatives they do not see often. It usually starts during childhood and, if left untreated, can persist into adulthood.

Ricardo had not spoken at school during his 3rd grade year, and his teacher was concerned about his participation in Academy 4. We let Ricardo’s A4 mentor know about this, and he patiently worked with Ricardo on A4 Fridays. By the third month, Ricardo started speaking to his mentor! From there he regularly interacted with his mentor, and even began verbally participating in his classes. The love and dedication of a mentor who was there just for Ricardo will have a lifelong impact on him.

Academy 4 takes place one Friday a month during the school year (9 months). Fourth grade students, mentors, and volunteers gather on the school campus during the school day for a fun-filled time of leadership training and relationship building. Each Academy 4 Friday is comprised of three different activities: Spark Clubs, LEADERS Assembly, and Mentoring.

Students attend two Spark Clubs on each Academy 4 Friday. These clubs offer a wide variety of experiences such as cooking, dance, basketball, soccer, art, robotics, coding, guitar, and ukulele. Community volunteers with expertise and passion in the club topic lead the clubs. Spark Clubs provide students with opportunities to explore extracurricular activities they may not otherwise get to experience. They are an excellent avenue for students to be exposed to new ideas and experiences.

In LEADERS Assembly, students and mentors gather for leadership training in a pep rally atmosphere. The leadership trait of the month is introduced through a fun and engaging puppet show, and a book of the month that is related to the leadership trait is presented. The assembly lasts about 15 minutes and prepares students and mentors for their mentoring time.

The final activity of each Academy 4 Friday is Mentoring Time, and is by far the favorite for all the students. It has two parts, LEADERS Compass Time and Hang Time. Working in their LEADERS Compass workbook, students and mentors answer questions and do activities together to process the leadership trait of the day and discuss ways that it can be applied in their daily lives. Following the LEADERS Compass Time, students and mentors continue connecting one-on-one through Hang Time. During Hang Time, mentors and students spend quality time playing a board game, reading a book, doing a craft, playing a game of toss or another outdoor activity. Hang Time is special time where relationships grow and students truly feel special and loved.

In the past year, our students have experienced isolation, academic difficulties, and family hardships like never before. And like most organizations, Academy 4 has seen significant challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But our schools, partner churches, volunteers, donors, and A4 staff have risen to these challenges and shown an incredible determination to continue to serve and love our students.

The Academy 4 program is being held entirely online this school year, where students and volunteers gather on Zoom each month for Academy 4 Fridays. Our staff has worked tirelessly to reinvent the program, create new child-safety protocols, train our volunteers and partner schools, and so much more. Our dedicated mentors care for our students, encourage them, and show them that they are not alone despite this lonely year.

Our 2020 Annual Luncheon, a crucial fundraising event, was cancelled. However, generous donors continued to support us, and we were able to grow our operations to serve an additional three schools this year!

We teamed up with our church and community partners to serve the communities surrounding our partner schools, including hosting food drives and donating laptops and headsets to schools in need.

Join us for our 4th annual A4 Day Luncheon to learn more about the Academy 4 Program and celebrate the impact on the 4th graders we serve. Additionally, we invite those who are able to do so to support us financially, so we can continue to provide EVERY 4th grader their own mentor. This year’s theme, Don’t Stop Believing, captures the heart and soul of our mentors, teachers, administrators, donors, and A4 staff who keep showing up this year to encourage, love, and support students. Together we have broken the walls of isolation while developing and challenging 4th graders to be resilient leaders through tough times. Learn more and register here:

Volunteer with Academy 4 by becoming a mentor or a general volunteer! Volunteers serve together once per month during the school year. Learn more and sign up here:

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