Program helps underserved Charlotte students achieve educational solutions

Program helps underserved Charlotte students achieve educational solutions

Due to the transition to a virtual learning environment for Carolina schools, parents and families may have a hard time accessing school supplies for their children to continue education from home. 

Because of social distancing measures resulting from COVID-19, many students will split their time online and in school. Between this and the economic downturn, families are finding it even more difficult to access supplies for their kids to complete their school year and not fall behind. 

S.T.A.R.S. (Striving Together Achieving Real Solutions) Math & English Academy helps scholars improve math, English and reading skills. Its purpose is to enhance students’ skills by using a balanced curriculum that stresses English and mathematics rigors while complementing these subjects with soft skills.

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“We want our programming to be accessible to any interested student, regardless of income,” said Elijah Watson, executive director for S.T.A.R.S. Math & English Academy.

“S.T.A.R.S. is proud that we have never charged a student to attend any program.” 

When the coronavirus crisis hit Charlotte, the United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation For The Carolinas partnered to launch the COVID-19 Response Fund. 

S.T.A.R.S. received a $15,000 grant to purchase technology to allow students and staff to access online tutoring.

The academic performance and End-Of-Grade test scores of underserved Charlotte-area students are low.  Many of these students do not have exposure to cultural enrichment activities, such as art, career development and life skills.  

Most of the students served by S.T.A.R.S. live below the poverty level in single-parent households and struggle with hyperactivity disorder, academic underperformance, poor peer relations, high rates of unexcused absences and grade retention.

“Bringing their interests, a volunteer can help a student connect with new content, create “aha” moments in learning, or plant an idea that drives a student’s curiosity,” Watson said.

“These help the organization achieve success. Donations help the organizations scale these successes to reach more students.”

The grant money will be used to fund a virtual math summer camp for students. The free math camp will run for four weeks and help 80 students in grades 4-9 to improve their math skills and replace some of the lost learnings due to COVID-19.  

“COVID-19 has created some uncertainty, which has made grant funding more competitive and individual donations more challenging,” Watson said. “We initially planned to provide both math and language arts during our camp but offered only math sessions due to limited funding.”

In the short term, S.T.A.R.S. may need to delay its fall program. They began delivering the program virtually in March and found that it helped its creativity and allowed more students to participate.  

In the long term, Watson said he believes it will broaden S.T.A.R.S. fundraising prospects while managing costs and provide an even better program.

“If we work together as a society, America will be stronger and more resilient in the future,” Watson said.

He hopes that the community will adopt the technology needed to find creative and innovative ways to teach content, improve student problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and make technology accessible to each student.

Since 1997, in partnership with Classroom Central and Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the WSOC-TV 9 School Tools program has collected school supplies, which are then distributed to students in grades K-12 at no cost.

For many families, home needs sometimes outweigh needs at school. When a family must choose between buying enough food for dinner or paying the power bill, the pressure of purchasing school supplies is an added expense that families can’t afford.

A 9 School Tools financial donation program is in place with different levels of giving that will support the needs of Classroom Central. Donors can equate their monetary donation to what can be supplied by Classroom Central.

Here are some of the giving levels:

  • A donation of $9 will help provide homework supplies for students.
  • A donation of $25 will help fill a student’s backpack with school supplies.
  • A donation of $50 will supply a teacher with essential school items.
  • A donation of $100 will supply an entire class with STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) kits.

Learn more about 9 School Tools at

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at