More than 100 students, many children of parents who work at area house farms, receive tutoring and other help through a unique program started by the nonprofit Race for Education.
Modeled after an after-school program targeting the families of horse farm workers in Belmont, N.Y., Starting Gate began in fall 2011 at Leestown Middle School and Paris Middle School. It has now expanded to Winburn and Bryan Station middle schools in Lexington.
This year, a total of 100 students are enrolled in Starting Gate, according to organizers.
The after-school program helps with literacy skills and homework and is free to students and the school, said Mandy Otis, the director of Starting Gate.
Horse industry and other agriculture workers often move frequently to find work, making it difficult for their children to keep up at school. The program helps those children stay on track.
The program is financed through private donations and other grants. In addition to helping children of agriculture industry employees, it helps the next generation of teachers, Otis said.
"We give education majors a $1,000 scholarship per semester for working two nights a week," Otis said. "It gives them additional experience and it gives us a lower student-to-teacher ratio."
Beginning this year, the program also gave $500 scholarships to high school seniors who wish to pursue education as a major in exchange for hours worked in the after-school program.
The program tracks student progress throughout the year, Otis said.
Although the Starting Gate targets students whose parents work in the agricultural and equine industry, it has expanded to include other middle school students as well. "We saw the need was even greater and we decided to open it up to other students," Otis said. Agriculture and horse farm workers' families are still given first priority, Otis said.
Race for Education is a Lexington-based education nonprofit founded in 2002 with an emphasis on equine and agriculture careers.