Boost-Up Plus is a 3-week multisensory summer camp for children ages 5-11 that focuses on stimulating physical and cognitive development through fun and challenging gross motor, fine motor, vision and auditory activities. Incorporating elements of A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach, the program is able to influence a child’s ability to learn, think and remember, ultimately giving them the confidence they need to achieve success in and out of the classroom.
“It’s a holistic approach to help children reach their full potential,” says Patrick Dreher, a Developmental Adaptive Physical Education Teacher in the Robbinsdale district and instructor of the Boost-Up Plus program. “We work on building automatic responses in the brain, like balance, hand-eye coordination and cross-lateral skills through our ever-changing course of activities. As these abilities become more automatic, students are more likely to absorb and retain the information being taught in the classroom, because they are more prepared to learn.”
Patrick returned to school and earned several degrees, including a Master of Science in Special Education. He would later attend a conference for physical educators where he was first introduced to A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach. This experience reinforced his belief that a moving child is a learning child. As fate would have it, he was hired shortly after as a physical education teacher at the Minnesota Transitions School, which happens to be in the same building as A Chance To Grow.
Patrick attended a 3-day S.M.A.R.T. workshop at ACTG and began introducing elements he learned into his own curriculum. The administration supported his efforts, and soon he was helping his students get the recommended 30 minutes of S.M.A.R.T. activities each day. Upon seeing this, the coordinators of Boost-Up Plus invited Patrick to join the team for the upcoming summer program, an invitation he happily accepted.
Since 2015, Patrick has been a Boost-Up Plus instructor and relishes the opportunity to lead the program each summer. “It’s difficult in a school environment because I sometimes only see students twice a week, which isn’t enough time to reach the 80 hours a year we aim for. It can take 2-3 school years to see any improvements at that rate. But in the summer, we have three weeks to work on specific things for each child and you can see progress happen much faster.”
“Every child has their own starting point and progress means different things for different people,” says Patrick. “We begin with an initial assessment to see where the child is and identify what skills we want to work on over the course of the camp. We make individualized adaptations as much as possible, and the obstacle course changes from day to day.”
The course includes activities like belly crawling, balance beams, overhead ladders, fine motor work stations and more. “We meet the students at their level by making the course incrementally harder or easier, depending on their individual needs. They appreciate the changes and that excitement fuels their motivation to reach their potential for that day.”
“There’s lots of different things I’ve seen and done that have worked great for some students, but not for others,” says Patrick. “This program works for everyone.”
Patrick relishes the moments when it “clicks” for the students, when they realize that they have the capacity inside of themselves to overcome obstacles on their own. “Once they know they have that power, they can do anything,” says Patrick. “It’s rewarding when they want to challenge themselves to be better or faster on the course. They begin to see that if they put in the work, they are going to make progress and find success. Confidence breeds success, and success breeds more success.”
Rosa* had plans – to go to college, major in business, build a career – but all that changed when she found out she was pregnant. She dropped out of high school and found herself drifting, living sometimes with her parents, sometimes with her boyfriend, who is the father of her baby. When little Rodrigo was born, she became a stay-at-home mom.
This past summer, as her baby approached his first birthday, Rosa found out about the TCEC Teen Parents Program and realized that, through this resource, she had an opportunity to get her life back on track. It provided her with a safe place for her son to stay while she took the steps she needed to take, a place that was not only secure but would also provide a great learning experience for him. Turnquist’s infant and toddler programs ensure that even the littlest ones get the developmental support they need to grow up strong and ready for school.
With access to reliable transportation, Rosa can turn her life around, because she can get her son to childcare and herself to school on time. Now she attends the Minneapolis Community and Technical College five days a week, three hours a day.
This is hugely important to young moms like Rosa. Without childcare and transportation support, teen mothers face formidable obstacles. According to the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support, only 50% of teen mothers get their GED by age 22, and less than 2% of teen parents graduate from college by the age of 30. According to a 2014 Hennepin County study, only 32% of county-involved teen parents go on to graduate from high school and dropout rate is among the highest in the state.
Children of teen parents are more likely to:
“I am so happy I found this fantastic program,” she says. “The staff is caring and they always listen.” She is so grateful to have this invaluable resource. Without it, she might not have been able to reach her goals.
*Names are changed to protect privacy
Since our founding more than 35 years ago, A Chance To Grow has relied heavily on the generosity of volunteers to sustain the growth of our organization. As the number and complexity of services grew, so too did the need for volunteers with diverse skills. ACTG’s cutting edge new therapeutic techniques attracted many professionals to support our worthy cause. One individual who saw the benefits of ACTG’s mission was Jo Gascoigne.
Jo began her illustrious academic career in 1958 as a physical education teacher in Mankato. She moved up to Minneapolis and began teaching at North High School and next moved to Wayzata where she served as a physical education teacher and trainer for elementary teachers. She always believed that physical education was a key factor for children to reach their full potential, and was recognized by the Croft Association for her methods that combined music, math and physical education. In 1974, she was one of five teachers that received the “Outstanding Elementary Teachers of America” award.
“Traditional public school’s Physical Education programs were focused on games and sports,” said Jo, “but I felt the curriculum must have an emphasis on developmental benchmarks. There is a need to advance through skill levels methodically, or skills that were missed will show up later in their lives.” With this in mind, Jo established an adaptive physical education course for students that were less physically skilled – the first state funded program of its kind in Minnesota.
Jo was then invited to teach at the Cooperative School Rehabilitation Center (CSRC) in Hopkins, a cooperative program sponsored by the University of Minnesota for students with cognitive impairments, who until then, had not been enrolled in school or an appropriate program. This experience allowed Jo to see firsthand what impact the lack of education had on students with disabilities. During her time at CSRC, she returned to school and earned a Specialist Degree in Administration to address the educational equity gap at a higher level.
In 1972, Jo was invited to lead a summer course at the University of Minnesota for educators looking to get into the Special Education field, where for two summers, she taught them the importance of motor memory and the impact it could have on an individual’s future cognitive abilities. After receiving another degree, she accepted the position of Director of Special Education for a four-district cooperative comprised of Waconia, Watertown, Chaska and New Germany. After several years in this role, the Minnesota Department of Education hired her as the Special Education West Metro Regional Consultant (SERC), where she worked with 22 school districts.
In 1974, Jo became involved with a landmark piece of legislation that guaranteed all children, including those with disabilities, receive a free and appropriate public education in every state. In 1975, the 94th Congress passed Law 94-142, which improved how children with disabilities were identified, evaluated the success of these efforts, and provided due process protections for children and families. The law supported more than 1 million children who had been excluded entirely from the education system, and countless others with only limited access to appropriate education.
This propelled Jo into her next position as the Assistant Director of Special Education at the Minnesota Department of Education, where she focused on the implementation of these newly enacted federal laws. She continued to advocate for parents, students, teachers and programs throughout the duration of her career, which spanned more than 35 years and included stops in Fridley, Osseo and Mahtomedi, until her retirement from traditional districts in 1993.
It was about this time that she began her involvement with the growing charter school movement. She was contacted by the Metro Deaf School, which sought her help in starting the first charter school in the nation for deaf students. Not long after, Bob and Kathy DeBoer approached her to advise them on the development of ACTG’s New Visions School.
”I really liked the fact that A Chance To Grow was trying different and unique therapies - things I couldn’t get into traditional public schools,” said Jo. “I guess I have the same philosophy as Bob and Kathy: developmental movement is key to higher learning and all children, regardless of ability, should be given every opportunity to reach their full potential.”
At the time, New Visions was struggling financially due to unequal funding for students in charter schools. While traditional districts received funds from taxes and levies, charters were not eligible for those funds. It was very difficult to provide programs for students, pay salaries for teachers, and pay for leases to keep the school open. Jo, along with Bob DeBoer and Bobbi Cordano of Metro Deaf School, met with a member of the legislature and convinced her to provide lease-aid based on the number of students enrolled. This legislation dramatically increased charter school funding and was a major win for charter schools around the state.
Over the next 17 years, Jo continued to volunteer her time to help improve ACTG’s financial stability, as well as the organization’s leadership structure. She served as a consultant, helping to streamline the outpatient therapy clinic’s medical forms and intake process, as well as organizing the department procedures and schedules. More recently, she helped Bob and Kathy prepare to retire, facilitating a smooth transition for the new Executive Director, Erica Dickerson.
“For many years, Jo’s been a wonderful volunteer who has helped build this organization in ways most people don’t know,” said Bob. “She’s done remarkable work on behalf of special education across the country and we are so grateful that she saw value in our mission and felt inclined to share her talents with us.”
These days, at the age of 87, Jo continues to support A Chance To Grow’s mission by referring countless families to our clinic.
“I see how grateful parents are when they see their kids make progress, and their willingness to drive far distances to participate in their innovative programs,” she said. “It’s not just the interventions that they offer, it’s the relationship and trust that parents and children enjoy with the dedicated and knowledgeable staff at A Chance To Grow that make it special.”