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COSBY (WATE) - Lottery sales in Tennessee benefit education, paying for college scholarships, early childhood programs and after school programs. In one Sevier County school, they're putting lottery funds to good use, boosting test scores, reading and students' confidence.
Jones Cove School in Cosby offers Pioneer Pride, an after school program, to its K-8 students.
Rolling the dice to see if state funded after school programs work is not an option. Programs like the one at Jones Cove must get results, or lose state funding.
Elizabeth Gibson teaches second grade and works with students of all ages in the after school program aimed to help at risk students.
"We try to think of fun ways in the after school program so that they don't realize they're doing common core standards, or some of the technology standards that they have to do," Gibson said.
Her students were playing the Alphabet Soup game when we visited. She pointed out that they're working on vocabulary, spelling and sentence structure.
The Pioneer Pride program has proven a success. Gibson points to students like eight-year-old Ed Strausbaugh as proof.
"He has done almost two years growth in reading just in the after school program through games and making it fun," she said.
"At first when I got here, I had F's and D's," Ed said. "And then when I got better, I was reading, and improving. Then I got A's, B's and C's."
Within minutes of talking with Ed, we could see the positive impact better understanding his work has had on him. Smiling from ear to ear, he said, "It's awesome. My parents are happy, and I'm happy, and my teacher is happy, too."
The program has different activities for each age group. We found fifth graders working on engineering skills and building models.
Seventh graders were taking pictures, documenting it all as part of their media and drama program.
"It's great," said seventh grade student Ceara Colley. "They allow you to get more learning experience." The 13-year-old hopes to turn her love of fashion into a career. She said the after school program allows her to try new things. "It makes me feel like I'm creative."
There are computer classes, music, nutrition and homework help, just to name a few. It's all in an effort to raise academic performance.
"Their behavior improves, too, because they're having a way to be creative and fun in a positive way instead of a negative way," Gibson added.
Ed Strausbaugh even won an essay contest writing about why he loves school. He read part of it to us. "My favorite thing at school is the computer lab. We have lots of games, and programs that help me learn. My grades are really improving, and my parents are proud of me."
Jones Cove School has less than 200 students, and more than 86% qualify for free or reduced lunch.
A $75,000 grant through the Tennessee Lottery pays for equipment and materials, teacher training, transportation costs and other expenses to run the after school program for three years.
They must submit reports to the state showing how the money was used, methods of evaluating the program and showing student outcomes.