September 28, 2018. Our program featured Brandon Sardik who is a pastor at Shiloh Church. He is also involved with a program known as Generation Next. Conversations with Easton School Superintendent John Reinhart revealed endemic problems with students considered to be at-risk. High percentages of these students were falling behind in their reading skills and often dropping out during high school. This led to the development of a middle school program designed to engage and prepare students for high school and hopefully increase their chances of graduation.
The program did not manage to positively impact the graduation rate but it did attract the attention of the people at CACLV who proposed bringing the program to the high school. The high school program would be designed to help students who were interested in attending college. Surprisingly, about 400 students showed up for a meeting to assess interest and about 100 applied for the program. This list was whittled down to 40, and about 23 completed the year. Participating students come to this special class during lunchtime. It is purely voluntary.
The first couple of months are spent building relationships and trust. This is the first, and only, consistent and positive experience in the lives of some of these students. This paves the way for the “Bridging the Gap” process which hopes to fight poverty through education. Students are encouraged and guided through the process of selecting and enrolling in college. A three-day whirlwind tour allows them to visit seven colleges including Rider, Kutztown, Maryland, and Howard. The program is only in its second year but applications increased to 600. Brandon believes that this program will eventually surface in schools throughout the Lehigh Valley.