News & Events

Summer Learning Loss

May 24th, 2010

For some children, summer vacation means camp, family trips, visits to museums, parks and libraries and a variety of enriching activities. But other children find that when schools close for the summer, healthy meals, medical care and fun and engaging activities are out of reach, as are activities that strengthen academic achievement and provide opportunities to explore new interests. At Operation Shoestring, we are providing those summer activities. The phenomenon of summer undoing school-year learning has come to be known as “summer learning loss.” The Afterschool Alliance notes that this was first commented on in 1906 followed some decades later by the 1978 book Summer Learning and the Effects of Schooling, by Barbara Heyns, which was based on her study of Atlanta students. More recently, a number of researchers have found that nearly all the differences in achievement between poor and middleclass children can be attributed to changes in learning that take place over the summer. This finding is particularly surprising—and important—given that the vast majority of public and philanthropic resources are dedicated to school-year education, and that relatively scant resources are earmarked for summer programs.Quality summer experiences give children access and exposure to the opportunities and relationships within their communities that promote learning and development. In fact, summer programs have the potential to close the test-score gaps that plague Mississippi. At Operation Shoestring this summer, we will provide fun and academic enriching camps here on Bailey Avenue and at several schools in the Lanier feeder pattern. We know that these efforts will help the students we serve close the gap between where they are and where they need to be.

Spring Fling is a fine time!

April 21st, 2010


More than 250 people from across Jackson joined us this past Friday night for our annual Spring Fling. In addition to having a great time, our guests enabled Shoestring to raise more than $30,000 for the children and families we serve! Can’t wait to see everyone next year. To see pictures from the evening, visit 

Many thanks to our generous hosts, corporate donors and our hard-working organizing committee, led by Mary Largent Purvis. Working together, we will ensure that all of Jackson rises!

Operation Spring Fling

March 18th, 2010

On Friday, April 16, 2010, Operation Shoestring will host “Spring Fling: A Benefit for Operation Shoestring.”   We’re thrilled to showcase two outstanding bands:

Wiley and The Checkmates and Horse Trailer

This event will not only celebrate Shoestring’s success in recent years, but also raise funds to expand its reach to even more children and families. The party will be held at the beautiful Mississippi Museum of Art and – as in years past – we will have some of the best music and the best party atmosphere you’ll find in the Southeast. Throw on your favorite pair of jeans and join us.

Tickets are $25 and available now at and at Be-Bop records.

About the Bands

Wiley and the Checkmates

Hailing from Oxford, Mississippi, the cultural center of the South, Wiley and the Checkmates have a lot to live up to. The hill country blues of Fred McDowell, Junior Kimbrough, and R.L. Burnside… The literary landmarks of William Faulkner, Larry Brown, and John Grisham…

Herbert Wiley formed the Checkmates in 1960 and the group began performing on the chitlin’ circuit as a marquee act and playing behind soul legends like Otis Clay, Percy Sledge, and Syl Johnson. After a dozen years with the Checkmates, Wiley quit music to run the family business and raise a family. In 2002, Wiley was inspired to reform the Checkmates after watching an Oxford punk band rehearse in a local storefront. Wiley brought together local gospel, jazz, and rock musicians and fashioned a modern take on the sound of the original Checkmates.

To read more about the band and to hear samples of their music, visit

To read a recent Jackson Free Press review of Horse Trailer, click here:

Our Generous 2010 Operation Spring Fling Hosts

Donna and Jim Barksdale
Amy and Cliff Bates
Sheryl and George Bey
Crisler and Doug Boone
Suzanne and Bill Boone
Betsy Bradley and Robert Langford
Liz and Bill Brister
Debra Brown
Nancy and Roy Campbell
Lillian and Bill Cooley
Lora Cox
Meredith and Jimmy Creekmore
Margaret and Brett Cupples
Janet and Marilyn J. Currier
Inglish and Matt Devoss
Louisa Dixon and Jerry Johnson
Ouida and Wayne Drinkwater
Evelyn and Gary Edwards
Carol and George Evans
Lynn and Bev Evans
Sharon Gray Garrison
Lida Gibson
Dolly and Wesley Goings, III
Bettye and James Graves
Emily and Joseph Johnson
Jona and James Keeton
Ann Hendrick and Jim Kopernak
Donna Ladd and Todd Stauffer
Holly and Alan Lange
Margie and Rick Largent
Jonathan and Davetta Lee
Virgi and Charles Lindsay
Vickie and Stephen Mason
Nora and Vaughan McRae
J. Douglas Minor, Jr
Sally and Dick Molpus
Sara and Robert Morgan
Jean and Lamar Nesbit
Deidra and Edward O’Connor
Susan and Bill Osborne
Janet and Luther Ott
Amanda and Scott Overby
Karen and Raymond Overstreet
Stacey and Wade Overstreet
Anne and Alan Perry
Michelle and David Pharr
Mandy and Cullam Pope
Gayla and John Purvis
Mary and Alex Purvis
Lori Quarles
Carolyn and Chris Ray
Melinda and Steve Ray
Brad Reeves
Missy Rose
Laurel and Josh Schooler
M. Diedrich Shanks and Matt Olson
J. G. Smith
Laurie and Brad Smith
Erica and Stewart Speed
Jerusha and David Stephens
Grace H. Tate
Lisa and Bill Thompson
Dorian Turner
Malinda and Jim Warren
Emily and Trey Waterloo
Megan West and Matt Allen
Jennifer and Rick Yarborough, Jr.
Sarah and Russell Young

Leadership Greater Jackson Visits Shoestring

March 10th, 2010

Members of the Leadership Greater Jackson Class of 2010 visited Operation Shoestring to learn more about early childhood development. Shoestring was pleased to serve as host, and Executive Director Robert Langford was on a panel that discussed the unique situation facing the children in this part of Jackson. Leadership Greater Jackson provides a valuable service to our community, and we appreciate that they stopped by today.

“Puckett Serves” Serves Shoestring

March 9th, 2010

Puckett Serves dedicated nearly 40 hours over three days this past weekend to completely renovate the restrooms and brighten the environment for our Project KIDS students here on Bailey Avenue. We are so grateful for their talent, their time and their commitment to the children we serve. The kids’ reaction to the new rooms was priceless!  To see more images, visit us on facebook (

How We Make A Difference at Operation Shoestring

March 5th, 2010

As we seek support for Operation Shoestring, we’re sometimes asked, “What difference are you making in the lives of the children and families you serve?” It’s an important question, and we asked Kim Luckett, Project KIDS Coordinator, to give us her take. She oversees the daily afterschool programming, so we knew she’d have great insight.

“Certainly, we reinforce the lessons that children are learning in school and we ensure that they complete their homework and that they understand it. By simply doing this, we make a difference in their lives – only at Shoestring can these children receive personalized and extensive tutoring,” Kim explained.

“It’s also fun to see second-graders speaking to each other in Spanish. Sometimes I have to pretend that I know what they’re saying! Without Shoestring, these children wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn another language. And we know from research that children who learn a second language do better in school.”

“But we make a difference in other ways. Children feel safe here. We help them understand that some of the realities of their neighborhood – like poverty, callousness or violence – do not have to be their reality. I am so encouraged when I see a six-year-old child take off his coat to offer it to a child without one. When I see the courtesy these children show to one another and to our staff, I realize that our “character enhancement” lessons really work,” Kim said.

“Probably the most meaningful difference I’ve seen recently is the difference these young children make in their very own families. For example, through the Family Reading Bonds program, families are learning to make time to read together. One mother told me two weeks ago that her child came home and said, ‘Turn off the TV. We’re reading!’ When the father came home from work and asked why the TV wasn’t on as usual, his daughter sat him down to read to him for 30 minutes. Because of that young child, the family is now bonding around reading. I don’t know that they would have without Shoestring.”

Operation Shoestring is fortunate to have such committed staff members like Kim Luckett. We’re also fortunate to have the support of the community and of people like you. Thank you for your interest in seeing that this work is possible!

Sam’s Club Helps Operation Shoestring

March 5th, 2010

Operation Shoestring was proud to receive a $1250 contribution from Sam’s Club of Jackson on Tuesday. This generous gift was made possible by the volunteer hours of several Sam’s Club associates. We’re so grateful.

Shoestring’s Approach to Education

March 5th, 2010

This brief New York Times article affirms Operation Shoestring’s efforts to get rid of a one-size-fits-all approach to education and adopting the more personalized/individualized style. We’re pleased to see this approach receive recognition!

Spring Fling Line Up is Set

February 24th, 2010

On April 16, 2010, Operation Shoestring will host “Spring Fling: A Benefit for Operation Shoestring.” We’re thrilled to showcase two outstanding bands:

Wiley and The Checkmates and Horse Trailer

Horse Trailer will take the stage at 7 p.m.

This event will not only celebrate Shoestring’s success in recent years, but also raise funds to expand its reach to even more children and families. The party will be held at the beautiful Mississippi Museum of Art and – as in years past – we will have some of the best music and best atmosphere you’ll find in the Southeast.

Tickets are $25 and will go on sale soon.

High Expectations

February 22nd, 2010

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Cynthia Tucker, wrote this week about the challenges of closing the achievement gap between middle and upper-class children and those children who live in poverty. Operation Shoestring is in the business of closing this gap, so we read her op-ed with interest.
In the essay, Tucker writes, “Educating all of our children, including those from poor and dysfunctional homes, is clearly in the national interest. In a globally competitive market and with nations like China and India emphasizing high-quality education, we simply cannot afford not to educate everybody. And it does no good to point fingers at parents — some of them busy trying to make ends meet, some of them functionally illiterate, some of them simply irresponsible. No child chooses to be born into a home without the obvious advantages. But children from poor households can succeed, as innovative schools around the country have already shown. What do those schools have in common? Teachers and administrators are convinced the children can learn.”

Dr. Martha Alexander, pictured below, is the Deputy Director of Operation Shoestring, and she shares the conviction that all children – regardless of their socio-economic background – can learn if they are properly engaged.

“There really is no mystery to effective teaching,” Martha says. “Effective teachers are those who understand each of their students’ learning styles, who know each child’s basic aptitudes, who build a strong relationship with their students that is based on high-expectations and who have a real mastery of the subject they teach.”

Some of the children we serve each afternoon at Operation Shoestring, unfortunately, do not enjoy this type of teaching. As a result, says Martha, “our job every day is to provide intervention and to bring these children up to the levels we know they can achieve. And time is short. From pre-k to 3rd grade, children are learning to read. From 3rd grade and beyond, children read to learn. If our children don’t have a solid foundation of reading by 3rd grade, we know that they will fall farther and farther behind, they will eventually lose interest in school and – worst of all – will drop out.”

The stakes are high and the news too often grim, but Martha Alexander’s outlook is optimistic. “The research shows that our approach works! We assess every child in our program to determine the best teaching strategy to making that student successful. Once we’ve determined that strategy, we are rigorous – but we make learning fun. Education is the surest way to better the prospects of the children in our neighborhood. My hope is that we can continue to expand our efforts across Jackson.”

By Teaching Children and Inspiring Families, Operation Shoestring Ensures We All Rise Together. This is our tagline and this is what we’re about every school day on Bailey Avenue. Come see us.

Dr. Martha Alexander, Deputy Director