Kennesaw State earns grant for program that helps close pandemic-related learning gaps

KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 22, 2021

Two ongoing Kennesaw State University programs that focus on children joined forces and received a grant from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) via an initiative from the Georgia Department of Education. The $332,449 grant for 2021-2022 is eligible for renewal for two additional years.

Bagwell College of Education associate professor Megan Adams and associate professor Sanjuana Rodriguez head the Academy for Language and Literacy. They, along with program director Allison Garefino of the Children and Family Programs (CFP) in the Wellstar College of Health and Human Services are working together on the project called Wellbeing-Reading-Inclusion-Trauma-Engagement (WRITE). 

L to R: Megan Adams, Sanjuana Rodriguez, Allison Garefino

The WRITE project, whose roots began in 2015, serves children in Cobb County and Marietta public schools and will now help students close learning gaps created by disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic. Through professional development offered by CFP, WRITE will also equip adults in the children’s lives with strategies and techniques to promote positive relationships and wellbeing to ease traumatic effects of the pandemic, too.

“This grant will make it possible for us to continue a much-needed program in our backyard,” Adams said. “I am proud of the work we’ve done so far, both for the children who need the help and for the KSU students who benefit from the added clinical hours with those children.”

Rodriguez said recent studies have indicated a slide in student academic performance because of the constant shifting of learning from in-person to online and back during the pandemic, and the grant will help participants in the WRITE program mitigate the effects of unfinished learning. 

“We know parents want afterschool and summer programs for kids because they realize that kids were out of school a lot in the past nearly two years,” Rodriguez said.

Data show that WRITE has helped students increase their reading ability, both in four-week summer programs and afterschool programs that run throughout the school year. Adams said 50 percent of summer 2021 participants increasing their reading level by at least one grade, with the other 50 percent maintaining their reading level. Since 2015, every summer program has shown increased efficacy in the teachers as well, particularly in providing individualized instruction.

“The fact that the literacy gains happen so quickly is a tribute to the tutors and teachers as well as to the students for their diligence,” Adams said. “Every participant benefits from this program.”

The reimbursement grant goes into effect in January, and it will fund ongoing work within the project, which offers afterschool and summer programs in childhood literacy for underserved communities. Adams and Rodriguez combined their research with Garefino’s work through the CFP on family and community interventions in childhood mental health issues to create the WRITE program.

“Sanjuana and Megan’s work addresses academic learning support because of the learning loss for COVID,” Garefino said. “Combined with CFP’s work in health and wellbeing, the WRITE program excels in a number of critical areas required under the ARP funding.”

The three noted that the grant will help pay student teachers who will gain valuable experience in working with children in a classroom outside of a traditional school setting, either during the summer or after school. The grant will also help pay students in the undergraduate and graduate social work programs, who will work with children on the mental health, wellbeing and trauma aspects of the program.

WRITE earned the grant through a program called Building Opportunities in Out-of-School Time (BOOST), which operates under the auspices of the Georgia Department of Education and is administered by the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network (GSAN). 

The WRITE program is one of 104 Georgia nonprofits to take advantage of $27 million in ARP federal relief funds approved earlier this year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

– Dave Shelles
Photos by Jason Getz

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit