Raising Expectations, Inc. was born when co-founders, Maria Armstrong and Tangee Allen engaged in a conversation about the African American community and its struggles as college students at Georgia State University. Both ladies decided to use their extra time away from school to start volunteering to tutor students from low wealth communities. For two years, they along with friends, picked up children from one street in the city of Decatur and took them to the local library to read, work on math problems and for mentorship. In just a short time, we watched as more and more children willingly self-selected themselves to do the very thing that society said they didn’t want. As time went on, relationships formed and were nurtured far beyond what they expected. It became apparent that that they couldn’t just conclude their volunteer experience as children and families were now reliant on the mentorship and tutoring being offered several days per week.
In that moment, they realized that they had to continue serving as instruments of change in the lives of economically and academically challenged youth in Metro Atlanta. Their goals included helping children living in underserved, low wealth communities understand that with hard work they too could attend college and pursue dreams that reached beyond what was most familiar to them. For 22 years, Raising Expectations has provided impactful youth development programming for youth in Atlanta communities that include Decatur, East Lake, Pittsburgh, Vine City, English Avenue, Washington Park and the Westside of Atlanta. It is unique among out-of-school time (OST) programs in that it is longitudinal in its relationship with students. Students begin their relationship with Raising Expectations as middle school students and continue as they matriculate through secondary and embark upon their post-secondary plans.
At Raising Expectations, we believe children will either live up to or down to the expectations set for them. We know for many youth living in underserved or disenfranchised communities, lack of support and positive role models can often result in poor, misguided or even damaging life choices. As a stable alternative, we create an atmosphere of support, encouragement and broadened life experiences to prepare those with the heaviest of odds stacked against them for success. We do this by offering a wide range of programming that addresses their social, academic and mental needs.
The organization’s 360 degree approach to youth development focuses on developing underserved students from a holistic perspective which includes personal & life skills development, tutoring, mentoring, STEM exposure, college prep and hands-on learning to improve college readiness.
We also believe change happens over time and in order to help children prepare for success, we must begin working with them at a young age and continue these relationships until the completion of their academic careers.
Raising Expectations’ (RE) program model is rooted in the organizational mandates and values referenced in our philosophy. We believe that children will either live up to or down to the expectations we set for them and therefore set the bar high from the onset. We know this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our model and approach to serving young people begins and ends with that in mind.
We have high expectations of our students and surround them with caring, positive role models that constantly reinforce that standard. We know that regular attendance in a high quality youth program supports positive outcomes and those that continue to participate year after year realize tremendous gains academically and socially. To this end, RE students are expected to attend 4 days per week without fail and remain enrolled throughout the school year. Additionally, we also know that by exposing them to experiences that broaden their life lens and regularly engaging them in enrichment activities, they can develop skills and interests that stay with them throughout their lives. Therefore, 1 days per week our students participate in enrichment activities and once per month they participate in fieldtrips. The types of enrichment sessions change every eight weeks and are designed to encourage new learning and personal development.
The Academic Tutorial Academy is the focal program component for Project D.R.E.A.M. (Developing Raised Expectations for Adolescent Minds). Most of our efforts are spent developing our students academically because we believe that in life, obtaining an education and learning opens many doors of opportunity. Raising Expectations staff meets with school administrators at the beginning of each school year to determine which core academic subjects to focus on. Ongoing communication throughout the school year with parents and teachers is critically important as it ensures that the efforts contributed during the Academic Tutorial Academy complements the efforts made at home and during the school day. Students are regularly assessed and data is used to drive the instructional process. Studies show that consistent assessment as well as data driven decision-making increases a child’s academic achievement.
Students are individually assessed and participate in one hour of computer-based individualized lessons with Plato Learning. Assessment results are converted into individual learning plans that help bridge the skill gaps. Volunteers and staff work with students to ensure that these gaps in learning are closed in preparation for students’ annual standardized exams. Through low student-mentor ratios as well as individualized computer based instruction, our students’ achievement has increased each year.