LSNA Grant Recipient: East Nashville Hope Exchange


This spring, the neighborhood board voted to give $650 grants to three organizations. We will profile each of the grant recipients in coming issues of The Fountain.  The second organization featured is the East Nashville Hope Exchange.  This article was submitted by the non-profit.

East Nashville Hope Exchange’s mission is to strengthen literacy of at-risk children in East Nashville. The exchange works with children from schools in the Stratford and Maplewood clusters.

The exhange is grateful for the generosity of the LSNA grant to continue this work. Historically, we’ve served 42 first through third grade students and their families in a six-week Summer Program, staffed by certified teachers and community volunteers, that is designed to combat the “summer learning loss” that disproportionately affects low-income students. But in the summer of 2015, the exchange was excited to expand the program to include kindergarten and fourth grade students. Made possible by a partnership with Ross Early Learning Center, this expansion allowed the program to double in size to almost 80 students.

Research shows that low-income students fall far behind their peers in language skills as early as 3 years of age, entering kindergarten already behind and increasingly struggling to read at grade level. Expanding our program allows us to intervene in literacy development early in our students’ educations and provide support over a greater period of time.

Each aspect of programming ties into the theme “My Family/My Community/My World.”

Community members with diverse and inspiring backgrounds volunteer as daily guest readers, while other volunteers work one-on-one with students as reading buddies. Local artists and special guests visit to perform for students or share and engage on a variety of topics, such as government and sustainability.

Finally, weekly family engagement events provide information on topics such as “How Literacy and Healthy Eating Are Connected,” and “Behavior Management Strategies.” Caregivers commit to reading 15 minutes with their student each day to reinforce good reading habits and instill an appreciation for reading at home. We were so grateful that students received a free book each day of the summer program, made possible by Flowerpot Press and First Book, to add to their home libraries — some 2,400 books were given to our students!

Hope Exchange board member Gracie Porter (former teacher, librarian, principal, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education vice-chair and chair, and MTSU adjunct professor in Elementary and Special Education) described why she serves on the board:I care about East Nashville Hope Exhange because it focuses on the whole family. It is supportive and inclusive no matter how great the need.”

Highlights from the 2015 Summer Program include such notable guest readers as Mayor Karl Dean, First Lady Crissy Haslam, the Metro Nashville Police Department Mounted Patrol, and staff members from the Nashville Predators Hockey Team.

Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary and Plant the Seed TN led programs dedicated to Sustainability and the world around us, and students have enjoyed field trips to venues such as the Vanderbilt University Stadium, the Tennessee State Museum, and the Cumberland Water Park.

Local artist Brandon Donahue worked with students to create the Silhouette Cypher art project, during which students creatively filled in life-sized outlines of themselves with images, colors, and symbols that represent how they see their place in the world. The Silhouette Cypher project is currently on display at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church.

Visits from the Nashville Ballet, Nashville Public Library Puppet Truck, and the Street Theatre Co. help to round out programmatic focus on the connection between literacy and art.

ENHE also hosts a School Year Program to provide our students and families with support year-round. This continues the work done in the intense six-week summer program. Monthly school-year workshops offer information for caregivers on literacy tools and behavioral management strategies, while children receive literacy instructions and complete an activity. The monthly workshops are supplemented by at-home visits and conversations with our students’ teachers and caregivers on a regular basis.

Here are highlights from our March, April and May family workshops:


 Positive Identity and Math Word Problems and Reading
Students in our program are just beginning to form their personal identities and find their place in their home, school, and community. This workshop focused on creating positive identities for our children by giving them increasing responsibility while providing support and encouragement as they grow more independent. Families talked about self-esteem and sense of purpose, while children were asked to think of positive outlooks for their future.

Stress Management, Test Taking, and Test Taking Strategies
Stress is an inevitable part of daily life, and the life of a student is especially stressful before and during testing. Families can manage stress surrounding test-taking specifically by talking with teachers before tests about how to prepare with your child, celebrating testing successes as a family, and setting realistic expectations for test results. Family members completed a timed sample test to understand the challenges and stress their children experience during these tests.  


Boundaries and Expectations and Kidwriting, 
Invented Spelling, and Phonetics

Children perform much better at home, at school, and as community members when they know where their boundaries lie. Knowing exact boundaries and expectations encourages good behavior, and lets children know when they are doing well. Families talked about kidwriting (phonetic spelling), invented spelling, and spelling patterns and the role these play in a child’s learning to read.