The PEP organization firmly believes that against all assumptions we will accomplish our mission. It takes a village to raise a child well and it will take our whole community working together to support a public education system in Winter Haven that is second to none. The list below is a sample of what has been accomplished since the inception of PEP in 2012. Be inspired, catch the vision, and join us!
After School Programs:
- Problem: Students riding the buses home cannot stay after school for homework help, remediation, or enrichment.
- Solution: After School Tutoring and Enrichment Centers. The goal is to open a center in every neighborhood that has this need. The first center was opened in March of 2014, The PEP Education Center, 203 Ave. R, NE, in Winter Haven. We are building out a successful prototype that can be duplicated through collaborative efforts.
- Problem: Students need one to one attention for a variety of reasons which can include social, emotional, intellectual, and physical reasons. Neither schools nor tutoring centers can afford this cost.
- Solution: Volunteering as a mentor, tutor, or classroom helper can mean the difference between a student succeeding and failing. Healthy relationships build healthy students who are able to learn. PEP has worked diligently to recruit volunteers for our schools and centers increasing the number of students who have one to one time with an adult. PEP helped to recruit volunteer coordinators at our schools thereby increasing volunteer retention. PEP established mentoring programs between organizations and schools such as the Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies mentoring students at Westwood Middle School.
Advanced Curriculum Programs in our High Schools:
- Problem: Many high school students were leaving our public high schools to look for accelerated learning programs elsewhere.
- Solution: PEP coordinated a community driven advanced curriculum search and the result is that the Cambridge International School will launched at Winter Haven High School August, 2015. Students also have the option of choosing AP courses and dual enrollment courses at Polk State College with this flexible advanced curriculum program.
- Problem: Many high school students were either unfocused or unsure about their career driven educational pathway.
- Solution: Career Connection matches high school students with adults working in their area of interest. They learn first hand what the career entails and the educational and workforce path that their mentor followed. This match program has led to higher interest and determination in educational pursuits, internships, jobs, and important networking opportunities.
Early Childhood Education
- Problem: Nationwide forty percent of students show up not ready for kindergarten. There can be a 30 million word gap between children from low and high socio-economic homes.
- Solution: Books, library cards, and a letter about the importance of reading is provided to all babies born in Winter Haven, PEP works with the Early Childhood Coalition to make available to parents the Quality Counts rating system for all childcare centers, PEP hosts Camp Ready at the PEP Education Center, PEP provides and distributes kindergarten ‘ready’ pamphlets.
- Problem: More than 2.6 million adults in Florida— or 20 percent of those 16 and older — lack even the most basic reading skills, according to estimates released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Video games and TV have taken the place of reading.
- Solution: PEP has distributed over 4000 books to children (to keep or swap) through the City of Winter Haven’s Summer Camp Programs, the PEP Education Center, donations to school libraries, and the new Little Free Libraries in front of each elementary school and all over town. PEP provides readers for the Reading Buddies program and for Relax and Read, PEP encouraged Family Reading Nights to take place at Winter Haven Library.
- Problem: Student lack of interest in school and decreased attendance and graduation rates.
- Solution: PEP supported and supports Career Academies in our high schools and pre-Career Academies in our middle schools. These academies provide a small learning community supported by a local advisory committee, a career theme that includes a college-prep curriculum and leads to industry certification, and partnerships with employers, the community, and higher education. Learn more at www.polkacademies.com.
Art & Music
- Problem: Many art and music programs are limited due to budget restrictions in our public schools.
- Solution: PEP arranged to have alternating schools perform in Central Park the first Friday night of each month. PEP provided 23 dulcimers to Inwood Elementary School students who will be performing the third Friday night of each month.
Physical Education & School Nutrition
- Problem: The Winter Haven/Lakeland corridor was named the 7th most overweight area of the United States. Physical Education classes are not strenuous enough to achieve a health benefit. Food choices in and out of school are problematic for students.
- Solution: PEP has influenced and educated our schools about the significant impact that exercise has on student achievement and overall health, based on Dr. John Ratey’s book, Spark. PEP was part of a coalition that brought Dr. Ratey to speak in Polk County. PEP sponsors free exercise classes in Central Park on Saturday mornings. PEP plans to launch a city wide ‘Blue Zone’ campaign this fall.
- Problem: There are gaps in communication between schools/services and parents/students.
- Solution: PEP is building out a better and more informative website, increasing our social media presence, and building a ‘go to’ list of community members who will help us disseminate information to all families.
- Problem: Many rich resources are not available or are limited for our schools, teachers, and students.
- Solution: PEP supports, funds, and provides volunteers to increase opportunities for learning and enrichment such as Toastmasters, Junior Achievement, Kidspacks, Smilepacks, teacher appreciation events, and a new and updated website and Facebook presence with resources for teachers, students, early learners, and more.