May 25, 2018


The last few days of the school year means I have to use all my mom super powers to get my kids to just go to school. They’re ages 11, 14 and 17 and seem to have early cases of senioritis. For them, summer is an endless stretch of sleeping in, camps filled with friends and canoeing, plus at least one vacation where they’ll ride frightening roller coasters and swim until they’re human prunes. That wasn’t what all my summers looked like growing up.

I was alone many days of the summer. Our apartment only had one window unit AC and I’d park myself in front of it. My mom worked and after fourth grade I was on my own in the steamy St. Louis months of June, July and August. As an only child I spent a lot of time watching TV, re-reading Baby-Sitter Club Books, and counting down the days until school started. My kids wouldn’t recognize my life when I was their ages.

That personal experience of loneliness and boredom over the summer, combined with the hard evidence that children can lose up to three months of reading and math skills over the summer, are why Kids on Course has so much to offer over the long break. If low income children had access to high quality learning over the summer, two-thirds of the nation’s achievement gap would disappear.

Kids on Course University is a seven-week summer camp designed specifically for kindergarten through fourth graders in the Cedar Rapids Community School District who need a boost in reading. Last summer we had more than 750 students attend! This free experience combines high quality instruction from certified teachers with fun, food and field trips. And the results show that students who attended Kids on Course University had seven times the reading growth over the summer as those who were invited, but didn’t attend.

Scholar Camp is our summer program for middle school students who attend Roosevelt and Wilson. When we first started Scholar Camp we weren’t sure any kids would show up. Let’s be real, middle schoolers aren’t known for enjoying getting up early and heading to school… especially when they don’t have to. So we were stunned when we saw our attendance numbers. Last summer, more than 160 sixth, seventh and eighth graders spent five weeks learning how to analyze news articles, create projects, practice math skills and read hundreds of novels. Middle school kids apparently love being with their friends, learning while having fun, and getting a free meal in the process.

For the first time in Kids on Course history we’ll have students entering high school in our program. These 14 year olds started with us when they were seven. We’ve been there for homeruns and fraction frustrations, first crushes and first finals. This summer we wanted an experience that would last with them forever, while also preparing them for the rigors and rules of high school. We decided to craft a three-pronged summer experience: volunteering, traveling, and back-to-school-boot-camp. Volunteering means each Kids on Course rising ninth grader will spend one week alongside elementary school students at Kids on Course University. They’ll be mentoring and helping kids who need the same support they needed as youngsters. The travel part will be a learning experience combined with an exciting opportunity to experience a new city: Chicago! This three-day whirlwind excursion is filled with studies in the arts, history and architecture of the third biggest city in the United States. This trip is something students had to earn with good school attendance and commitment to Kids on Course. Finally, they’ll be ending their summer by going back to school before any other high school students. They’ll learn study skills and explore the extra-curricular opportunities available as freshmen. And we’ve partnered with the Iowa College Access Network to help students assess their own career interests and goals so they can start working now for a future of their design. At the end of this boot camp every Kids on Course ninth grader will have a resume they’ll build on throughout high school, knowledge about what GPA they’ll need to reach their career goals, and connections to the opportunities in sports, arts and clubs to keep them positively engaged throughout high school.

Summer in Kids on Course is one of the busiest times of the year. It’s also when we host our huge fundraiser and community event: The Zach Johnson Foundation Classic. Everyone is invited to join us on Monday, July 9th at Elmcrest Country Club as we cheer on Zach and his fellow PGA TOUR professionals and celebrities. This free one-day event is filled with golf, entertainment and lots of love as it raises money to keep Kids on Course’s tutoring, mentoring, enrichment and summer programming 100% free for our families!

– By Beth Malicki, Kids on Course Program Leader

May 15, 2018

Summer, Finally!

Brace yourselves. Summer is coming.

Contrary to popular belief, Kids on Course staff do not spend our whole summer sunning ourselves poolside. From June 18 – August 3, our elementary staff we work at Kids on Course University (KCU), a seven-week academic summer program designed to help students maintain and grow their reading and math skills.


Kids on Course University is a great change of pace and setting for both students and staff. Students work on their academic skills in classes with a 15-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. They also do many fun enrichment and STEM activities and go on field trips every week!

Last summer, Van Buren, Harrison, and Grant students gathered each day at Harrison Elementary. Mr. Wertz, the summer enrichment leader, came up with many great ideas to keep kids engaged: making slime, designing and building fidget spinners, and a gym scooter derby.

Even though Kids on Course University has a fun summer camp vibe, the goal is serious: to prevent summer reading loss. Students who participated in KCU in 2017 grew 7 times more in reading than their peers who did not participate. The small classes with a certified teacher have proven to be highly effective.


Kids on Course elementary staff have a blast spending the summer with kids. We play hard at recess. We help struggling students. We support teachers. We go on field trips (Seeing Cars 3 with 150 kids, yes please). We deliver weekend food bags. We communicate with parents about how their kids are doing at KCU.

The best part of KCU is spending more time with the students. The kids work hard all summer and it is rewarding to see them grow more confident in their reading and math going into the new school year.


– Greg White, Van Buren Site Manager

May 4, 2018

MAY the Force Be With You

May at the five Kids on Course schools means Learning Lab has ended, and students and staff begin daydreaming about summer and all the wonderful Kids on Course University/Scholar Camp activities that are to come. At Van Buren, May also means Star Wars Day, which falls on the fourth every year.

Star Wars and KOC may not seem to be connected, but to the careful observer (or increasingly desperate blog writer) their core DNA is actually very similar. At the heart of the Star Wars franchise is the idea that just the smallest spark of hope can light the fire of change in the world. KOC’s credo of providing equal access to opportunity speaks the same message.

When kids (and rebellions) are given hope, they have the idea that all things are possible. KOC takes kids on college visits multiple times a year so that they can see themselves on a college campus. KOC has a scholarship fund to help students pay to play sports outside of school. This seemingly small gesture could help to produce the next MLS star. Our tutors spend countless hours coming up with new and interesting ways to help our students engage with learning and bridge the achievement gap.

Whether it’s Han Solo returning to help destroy the Death Star, or a KOC tutor finally creating the right activity to help a third grader get the hang of multiplication, the creation and cultivation of hope is an important thing. That third grader who just figured out multiplication now has the hope that math isn’t as scary as they thought it was, and that can lead to a snowball effect of positive things in their academic life. The newly emboldened Rebel Alliance knows that the Empire can be beaten, and peace can once again exist in the Galaxy; maybe with the help of a current third grader who has a newfound love of math…

May the force be with you.

-Jerry Logan, Van Buren Site Coordinator

April 25, 2018

Top 5 Things About Harrison

My Top 5 Favorite things about HarrisoAs my third year at Harrison is starting to wind down it dawns on me that I am no longer “too new” to have an opinion about this place. So without further ado here are my top 5 favorite things about Harrison.

  1. The Students- One of my very favorite things is seeing our students grow into better versions of themselves. Whether that means seeing a kid become confident in their academic abilities or seeing a kid blossom into a leader that other kids follow. Beyond that they make me laugh, they challenge me, and they have taught me skills I didn’t know existed.
  2. Staff- One of the things I really admire about our staff is that they take care of all our kids regardless of whether they are “their” students. I think of the upper level teachers going out of their way to connect with younger siblings of students. On the flip side I see so many of our big kids excitedly hugging the teachers they have had in the past. I could say so many great things about our staff but all the extra love they show students is important in building resilient future adults.
  3. Families- I always brag about how caring and loving the families at Harrison are to my friends and family. What sticks out to me specifically is during the 2016 flood I walked the neighborhood and saw many Harrison families helping other Harrison families, sandbag and move furniture to higher ground. During the most stressful time imaginable people took time to make sure their neighbors would be OK as well, and that’s really cool. On a day to to day basis I’m consistently treated with patience and kindness from all my Harrison families and I appreciate that.
  4. The building- One of the thing that sticks out about Harrison is the architecture, it is gigantic, old, and one of a kind. I have heard kids describe it as a medieval castle, Hogwarts, and “spooky”, like something from Scooby Doo. While all these things might be true I think it’s also important to note it feels like home and a lot it’s quirks make it truly unique.
  5. The Future- I truly feel like every day at Harrison things are getting better, our kids learn new skills, and they are becoming better future citizens. There are things happening in the upcoming years that will continue to improve student outcomes and make staff even more effective. I’m excited to see these things and be a part of them.

Honorable Mention- Mini corndogs are a strong 6th place on this list, every month I scan the lunch menu to look for these. They are culinary magic and I love them.

– Luke Reynolds, Harrison Site Manager