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Poverty is a serious issue in many communities throughout Southwestern Ontario. According to Prosperity Roundtable (a group working toward poverty reduction in their area), 18% of people in Chatham-Kent live below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut Off (LICO), which includes a staggering 28% of children. (Stats Can, 2011). 

In 2012, one in seven Canadian children – or 967,000 – were living in a low income household, according to Campaign 2000, a cross-Canada public education movement to build awareness and support to end child poverty.

In Ontario, child poverty rates mirror the national average, with about 371,000 children living in low income households. (Stats Can, 2011)

Equally alarming are the statistics for the Sarnia-Lambton community. A 2006 report prepared by the County of Lambton determined that 1 out of every 6 children (18.16%) in Sarnia-Lambton live in low income households. (Lambton Circles, 2014)

What are truly concerning are the effects of this poverty, such as poor health and nutrition, obesity, physical and sexual abuse, behavioural and emotional problems, as well as low
academic achievement. 



Breaking the poverty cycle requires a support system within low income neighbourhoods that provides every child with opportunities to thrive and reach their potential. Children from low income families are at a disadvantage economically, socially and educationally. As early as kindergarten, children from middle income families already have a 6-month academic advantage over children from low income backgrounds due to access to early reading and pre-school education that aren’t always available to low income children. Therefore many low income children begin kindergarten at an academic disadvantage and continue to fall behind in school with no chance to catch-up without additional support. This is known as the ‘achievement gap'.

This disparity continues to grow as middle income children have access to after school activities, such as recreational sports, music lessons and tutoring, while lower income children may not have the same opportunities. Research also shows that most children lose approximately 2 months of grade level equivalency in math skills throughout the summer months. Low income students lose even more than that in reading achievement, while their middle class peers make slight gains. By grade 5, low income children can be 2.5 to 3 years behind academically compared to middle income children. This gap continues to widen each year and ultimately affects their future academic and career opportunities as well as their overall health.


YMCA Beyond the Bell (formerly known as the Virtual YMCA) helps break the cycle of poverty by closing the achievement gap experienced by low income children compared to middle income children. This year-round program takes a holistic approach to the well-being of every child. By working closely with teachers, the individual challenges of each child are identified, understood and a preventative plan of action is put in place. YMCA staff leaders are positive role models helping each student to improve literacy and numeracy skills, build social skills, develop self confidence and experience new opportunities. The program provides the children with the tools and support they need to help close the achievement gap and develop a stronger and more successful future.
YMCA Beyond the Bell focuses on four key program areas:

•  Realizing academic achievement
•  Improving health and wellness
•  Exploring culture and creativity
•  Developing social skills

We know that academic achievement has positive effects on students through increased school engagement, attitudinal and behavioural changes, increased motivation, higher attendance rates, better work habits, increased cognitive skills and better classroom behaviour. High literacy skills have shown to propel students beyond good grades by leading to higher education attainment, increased annual earnings, lower unemployment, delinquency and crime. Effective reading skills by grade 4 are one of the most potent predictors of successful adult adaptation (E. Werner, 1993). Through close mentoring, children learn effective work habits and find reward in completing homework, one of their greatest areas of need. After one year at YMCA Beyond the Bell, the majority of children show an improvement in reading by at least one grade level and the overwhelming majority of parents report that their children understood their school lessons better and their confidence improved.


The YMCAs across Southwestern Ontario has been chosen as 1 of 3 YMCAs across Canada to roll out the Beyond the Bell program that was developed by YMCA of Hamilton Burlington and Brantford. We are now operating in Wallaceburg (A. A. Wright ), Chatham (St. Ursula) and Sarnia (P.E. McGibbon) schools.


YMCA Beyond the Bell is made possible through the generosity of donors.

Our donors share our vision of ensuring each child in our communityhas the opportunity to succeed. It is only through the generosity of many that we are able to provide YMCA Beyond the Bell to the children who need it the most at no cost to their families. We are calling on the community to join us in furthering our vision to reach a greater number of children who will learn to believe anything is possible.

READ THE 2014-2015
READ THE 2015-2016

Hear from Robin Founk, YMCA Beyond
the Bell Program Coordinator

Hear from Ben Hazzard, 

Prinicipal of P.E McGibbon Public School
(Former Principal of A.A. Wright 
Public School)
BTB 2015 btb thumbnail Robin  Ben 








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