Thanks to growing charter school and homeschooling movements in the U.S., parents have more options than ever when it comes to their children’s education. Selecting the right school for one’s child ‒ and helping them succeed in that environment ‒ has become more of a process than it was in the past.
Stevie Award-winning Founder / Director of New Heights Educational Group, Pamela Clark, experienced this first-hand when she was deciding where to enroll her young children. Clark home-schooled her children before finding the right charter school for them.
At the local charter school, Clark took on leadership and mentoring roles. Despite her affinity for these independently-controlled schools, she noticed that certain students were falling behind. Those with learning and emotional difficulties, like autism and ADHD, had a particularly tough time getting through the curriculum.
What those students needed, she thought, was a place they could go for additional support. And so, in 2006, New Heights Educational Group was born.
Filling in the Educational Gaps
The organization became a single destination where families could get help deciding where to educate their children, improve their literacy skills and find a library of reading materials for dealing with challenges.
At its core, New Heights Educational Group is a one-on-one tutoring program that focuses in on areas where the student needs extra attention. Teachers and students are required to meet three hours a week over a three-day period.
“We found that fill-in-the-gap type tutoring is necessary in order to reach students that have been left behind in traditional settings,” Clark says.
This focused approach has yielded dramatic results, she notes. Several students who were on the verge of dropping out of high school before they received tutoring from NHEG have now graduated. One student who suffered from seizures at a young age was able to jump three grade levels in science and four grade levels in math in a little over a year.
Parents with children facing learning disabilities found an environment where they could explore new strategies and share their experiences with others.
“In addition to successful, child-focused learning techniques, families are able to cope with their children’s struggles better because of increased social support,” she says.
If anyone could empathize with someone struggling because of a lack of outside help, it was Clark. Neither her father nor her two brothers ever graduated from high school and her mom wasn’t always there to help with her studies. She had also faced numerous health ailments throughout her life, in large part from being malnourished as a child.
Thanks to New Heights, she’s making sure other students don’t have to deal with those same hardships. The organization recently won the Silver Stevie in The American Business Awards for Organization of the Year in the Small Nonprofit or Government category, which was awarded during a June 20 gala at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York.
“This is such an honor,” Clark said afterward. “Every day our team of 81 volunteers work to promote our work in bettering education for all families, regardless of school choice, background or beliefs.”
Continuing to Grow
Eleven years after starting the venture, Clark continues to grow New Heights. It currently draws students from several states, thanks in part to its flourishing online solutions.
With help from Kathryn Stout, author of Natural Speller, the organization has created a free online version of the book for students learning to read and spell. Clark and her team also developed a free financial literacy course to help youths make wiser decisions with their money.
The journey into the digital realm has proven to be a fruitful one. New Heights garnered a second Silver Stevie this year in the New Product or Service of the Year category for its PK-12 Personalized Learning Solution.
In addition to helping students advance in school, Clark has also positioned the organization as a leading voice in educational strategies. On top of the monthly educational magazine it recently launched, New Heights started an Internet radio program that now boasts more than 24,000 listeners a year.
Clark and company published a book entitled One Nonprofit’s Journey to Success in 2015 and released a second, Unraveling Reading, late last year.
Even as she faces ongoing health issues, Clark continues to serve as the engine for the program. She oversees the dozens of volunteers who provide tutoring through New Heights, offers training to teachers and continually researches new strategies for helping students reach their potential.
“Educational changes are slow moving and very little improvements are ever made,” says Clark. “So the work that nonprofits do are very important and normally don't receive the attention they deserve.”