May 28, 2024

IE COMMUNITY NEWS

El Chicano, Colton Courier, Rialto Record

Colton Joint Unified Honored as Think Together’s 2024 Champion of Change, Programming Lauded as Transformational for Students

4 min read

Think Together leadership, including CEO Randy Barth, visiting CJUSD at its May 2, 2024 board meeting to recognize the district for its partnership and transformational programming.

At its May 2 board meeting, Think Together, California’s leading nonprofit provider of afterschool, expanded learning, and school improvement programs, recognized Colton Joint Unified School District (CJUSD) as its 2024 Champion of Change Award recipient. This honor highlights a 14-year partnership dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities for thousands of students.

Since 2010, Think Together and CJUSD have collaborated to provide free afterschool and expanded learning programs. This year alone, over 3,500 students in 22 schools across the district benefit from these programs. The initiatives span TK-Kindergarten, traditional afterschool programs, and non-instructional day sessions during summer, winter, and spring breaks.

“The Champion of Change Award for Think Together is given to partners that go above and beyond leveraging their resources to really make a huge impact and difference for their kids,” said Randy Barth, founder and CEO of Think Together. “This year, we’re proud to present this award to Colton Joint Unified School District for their innovative approach to scaling academic and enrichment programs so more kids can pursue their greatness.”

CJUSD has successfully utilized various funding sources, including Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP) grants and After School Education and Safety (ASES) funding, to eliminate waitlists and serve between 150-200 students daily at each of its 22 elementary and middle schools. This strategic financial management has allowed the district to broaden its program reach significantly.

Moreover, CJUSD has integrated numerous community partners into Think Together’s expanded learning programs. Students gain exposure to music through Drums Speaks©️ and Dhasa Care Foundation, theater via L.A. Arts Group, and competitive sports through the LA84 Foundation. These collaborations enrich the students’ educational experiences beyond the traditional curriculum.

“Colton has the unique ability to see a challenge and face it. They come in and make sure that not just every student has what they need, but every staff member has what they need,” said Rhonda Scott, Think Together’s General Manager for the San Bernardino Northeast region. “With the expanded learning opportunity, Think Together has been able to expand to offer more students and their families the invaluable opportunity for a safe place to be in the hours after the school bell rings.”

The recognition event, held at CJUSD’s public board meeting, was part of a series of spring events celebrating expanded learning programs. The occasion was attended by CJUSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Miranda and Think Together’s founder and CEO Randy Barth.

“It just brings so much joy to my heart to see what Think Together does for our community by providing opportunities where students can be happy and learn,” said Dr. Miranda. “It is transformational. I’m very happy with Think Together and as long as I am superintendent, we are going to continue to offer these programs to our community.”

Barth emphasized the district’s commitment to innovation and student welfare. “CJUSD has been innovative in all the things they offer to students – they’ve expanded access to enrichment programs such as theater, to STEM, to sports; as well as embracing high-dosage tutoring to address the learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ron Perez, CJUSD ASES Grant Manager, highlighted the persistent need for expanded learning programs in the district. “There has always been a need in our district for services in expanded learning programs and when we started we only had 11 schools offering the program and because of the transparent need, we continued to apply for more programming. The impact that this has in our community is that parents know their child is safe and know that this program is available to them and there are no income guidelines or restrictions.”

The ASES program, now available at all elementary and middle schools in the district, provides a variety of activities that support both academic and personal development. “Parents really are thankful that this is funded by a grant and doesn’t cost them any money and they know that their child is on campus and safe,” said Dr. Lisa Mannes, Principal of Sycamore Hills Elementary School.

Parents and students alike express gratitude for the program. CJUSD Parent Jose F. shared, “When my daughter gets home from this program she talks about what’s happening and she loves it.” Another parent, Ana D., added, “I’m able to now work and not have to worry about what I am going to do with my son when he gets out of school. Think Together has it all taken care of and it helps me to keep my job to provide for my daily life.”

Student Kelechi Tarik emphasized the personal impact of the programs, saying, “At Think Together I participate in Music Club and it helps my confidence to go up and speak on stage where everyone is watching us.”

The programs offer a safe environment where nearly 2,000 kids receive daily support with academics, engage in cooking activities, crafts, and sports. The continued collaboration between CJUSD and Think Together exemplifies how community partnerships can foster educational success and provide essential resources to students and families.

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