Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Ralph Coldiron announced in June that the organization was looking for a community partner to help fund an academic mentoring program in Lexington.
Not long after, Coldiron said, Kentucky Bank, the Urban County Government, and an anonymous donor stepped up to help.
"The program is rolling at superspeed," Coldiron said.
That means that soon after Labor Day, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass can implement an academic version of its traditional mentoring program. The goal is to close the achievement gap and raise test scores at Lexington's William Wells Brown Elementary School.
With a score of 34.4 out of 100, William Wells Brown Elementary was the lowest-rated among elementary schools statewide in Kentucky's testing and accountability program in 2013-14.
Since June, Big Brothers Big Sisters has received $100,000 of the $120,000 it needs to fully fund the effort, Coldiron said.
Fourteen children have been chosen for the program so far.
In a version of the organization's national Schools Plus Program that the local staff plans to start at William Wells Brown this fall, a volunteer meets at school with the child about one hour each week. Big Brothers Big Sisters' national Schools Plus program will be tailored to increase test scores at William Wells Brown.
The program will pair academic mentors with students for two years, beginning with 20 second-graders and expanding to 40 children. One part-time staff member hired by Big Brothers Big Sisters will screen volunteers and enroll children in the program. One full-time Big Brothers Big Sisters staff person will be at the school full-time to work with the principal and staff.
Like several other Fayette County schools, William Wells Brown is classified by the state as "needs improvement" as opposed to "proficient" or "distinguished." William Wells Brown also is classified as a "focus" school, meaning it is underperforming in closing achievement gaps between poor, minority and disabled students and other students.
Students in grades 3 through 8, 10 and 11 participate in the test called K-PREP (Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress), which is designed to measure how well they learn material that Kentucky requires in reading, math, science, social studies and writing.
The goal for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program will be for children who are classified as novice to test proficient in the state's accountability system.
More adult mentors who will make a two-year commitment are needed, Coldiron said. Among those who organization officials want to recruit are retired Fayette County Public Schools teachers.
He said people who want to volunteer can call (859) 231-8181.
In the long term, Big Brothers Big Sisters hopes to expand the program to other schools.