ABACUS at three

In 2015, Hamilton Community Foundation set out  to create a pathway for more kids to graduate high school and move on to post-secondary education: college, university and the trades.

Known as ABACUS, this 10-year commitment is the primary focus of HCF’s Community Fund granting and leadership. It is unique in targeting students in Grades 6, 7, 8 — a critical transition period for young people that is key to their later success. By supporting middle school students, parents, educators and other partners, ABACUS works to help kids more effectively transition to high school, begin to set goals early and imagine a future with more possibilities.

ABACUS comprises three components: granting to increase the community’s capacity to meet the needs of this age group, an intensive one-on-one mentoring program called Grad Track, and support for systems change to address gaps that may present barriers to educational advancement.

At the three-year mark of ABACUS, Hamilton Community Foundation has funded a wide range of community-based programs. They include before, during and after-school activities such as mentoring, academic support, goal setting, and campus visits. Students are engaged through a wide variety of interests: the arts, sports, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs and others. Some numbers to date include 9,000 students participating, 29 initiatives funded, and 700 parents and 460 educators engaged.

ABACUS in action
Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club’s ABACUS after-school initiative illustrates the approach. Twice a week, students get homework help and have a range of academic and life skill learning experiences. Once a month, they broaden their perspectives on the future with outings to local high schools and post-secondary institutions. Some 75 middle school students are involved, along with more than 30 parents. The program reports outcomes that include:

• Better school attendance and homework completion
• More participation in leadership activities and volunteer opportunities outside school
• More positive attitudes toward school and learning
• A developing interest in post-secondary education
• Parental commitment to nurturing their child’s potential

“ABACUS goals are challenging, and the work is complex,” says Matt Goodman, Vice-President, Grants
& Community Initiatives. “But the indications are that we’re on the right track. Working with students at this pivotal point is transforming the way they view their own potential. That’s tremendously exciting for each student — but also for the whole community. Hamilton’s competitive future depends on it.”
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Excerpt from Legacy winter 2019 newsletter