In September 2007 Mike Malkemes, founder and Executive Director of Generation One, began to envision the transformation of the Third Ward of Houston, Texas from generational poverty and despair to productivity and hope. He had one instruction, “Love them through the Storm.” Teams of volunteers were identified and organized to paint, do minor repairs, landscape, remove trash, and complete other revitalization projects after Hurricane Ike. This created a base for further communication and relationship building with Third Ward residents while serving as a model and resource for outside organizations, foundations and businesses seeking to sponsor revitalization projects in the Third Ward.
It became increasingly clear to Malkemes that more intensive work would be needed to drive and sustain transformation. Children as young as 2 years of age were seen unattended in the streets as were older children after school and in the summers. After-school tutoring was provided and children were taken to summer camps, but more extensive intervention was needed. Thus, the original Generation One plan of action was expanded to add education and training of children and their parents/guardians along with its community revitalization and empowerment projects and events. In August 2011, Generation One Academy was established as a private, year-round school and extended day program with 45 students from 22 families enrolled in Pre-K 4 to 5th grade classes with a maximum of 12 students per class of two grade levels with a teacher, aide and volunteer in each classroom.
In May 2014 an extensive program evaluation was conducted after 3 years of operation. Research shows that children from low-income families hear an average of 8 million fewer words per year than children from high-income families. This means that by the time these children are 4 years old, they will have heard 30 million less words than children coming from high-income families. This is commonly referred to as the 30 million word gap . Findings clearly indicate that the greatest gains occur when quality education is introduced as early as possible. As a result, the Academy was redesigned to become an Early Childhood Intervention Program (Pre-K to first grade) in response to the findings which indicated the greatest achievement and behavioral gains had been made by the youngest children.
All ages of students improved, but replacing the poor work habits and behavior of the older students was the most labor and time-intensive. To that end, partnerships with Young Scholars Academy and the Nehemiah Center were created to serve G1A’s older students. Generation One would continue to provide after-school and summer programs for them along with the early intervention students. The ultimate goals for students graduating from the Early Childhood Intervention Program and attend our partner schools are:
They achieve at or above grade level
Are equipped with self-regulation/ social skills/productive work habits
Have at least one family member equipped to help them navigate successfully through the educational system.