Tutoring Program Provides “Helping Hand” to Local Students and those Displaced after Recent Tornados
Edom United Methodist Church volunteers are providing much needed stability and encouragement to students needing “a little extra” help with academic challenges.
Edom UMC member Barbie Clay beams with happiness to know she has been able to “pay it forward” in her hometown church by revamping the tutoring program that was so beneficial to her own daughter years ago. “When my daughter was in elementary school, she had some struggles in learning as she was the youngest in her class,” notes Barbie, “and we were put in touch with the ladies at Edom UMC who led a program called Community in Action. They offered after-school tutoring one day a week for those that needed that little extra one-on-one education. Thankfully, the program helped my daughter go from being the last one in class to one of the leaders for years to come and she ultimately graduated with wonderful grades and felt good about herself.”
In recent years, Barbie began noticing children in Sunday school were struggling with reading and understanding things of the Bible and lessons. “I thought that it would be a great idea to revamp or restart the program all over again and, due to a variety of challenges it took two years to come to fruition in October 2015,” she says, “when about 20 children showed up!”
Last year’s horrific tornado near Edom displaced many students from their homes and their schools, adding to their struggles. Explains Barbie,”We sent out forms to all of the campuses from kindergarten through high school and, even though this is a small district, we have students coming to us for the extra help.”
“The great thing about Edom UMC is when one person says “We’re going to do this,” lots of people jump in to help,” says Rev. Jason Huffman. The volunteers knew there would be a handful of students from within the congregation who would participate, but weren’t sure how many others would come. By the time the program began, there were nearly 20 kids registered with over half of those students being from outside of the congregation.
“Local counselors and teachers from two campuses have started to see a bit of an improvement in the students' grades,” she adds, “and they are certainly encouraged about what is going on. We have many volunteers that come and donate their time and energy on Tuesday afternoons. Most of them are retired teachers and members who wanted to step up and help. Regardless of the students’ church membership status, we treat them all as if they were our own.”
The parents are also excited and thankful for Edom’s new ministry, particularly the help they receive in assisting their children with challenging schoolwork. Edom volunteers have purchased books for lessons and sought websites for age and grade appropriate studies to help build their self-esteem while learning something new. “There is nothing more exciting than to see a child's face light up when they finally figure something out! I am so honored to work with these kids each week and to see their bright smiling faces as they come through the door and quickly touch my heart.”
Barbie is doubly blessed having a pastor that is also a regular tutor. “When the kids arrive, we always start with that day's homework first then when that is done, we do practice work on areas of emphasis where their parents indicated they need help,” notes Rev. Jason Huffman. “We have also utilized our church library where students can check out books to take home or they can read them when they are finished with their homework. “
In order to help parents who work late, Van ISD agreed to bus the children to the church instead of their usual stops. When children arrive, they enjoy a snack and begin working with an adult on their homework for that day. Tutors then help with specific areas of need based on input from the parents on the registration forms. Students read books, practice handwriting, and do age-appropriate math worksheets.
On the registration forms, parents were asked if they would like more information about the church. Jason adds, “I am there to greet parents for drop off and pick up and was able to give families information about the ministries and programs of the church. It would be a huge win if the church picked up a couple of new families through this program, but that is not the reason for doing it. The church is meeting the needs of the community and investing in the young - that is most important.”
How to Start an After School Program
Joe Cuthbertson, Lay Leader/Task Force team lead, says, “We formed a Task Force for Church Growth a couple of years ago to function as a visionary group. Barbie brought her vision to the group and the task force wholly supported her vision along with our Church Council that set the tutoring ball in motion.”
Barbie had the support of the church and she ran with it. She would be thrilled to help other churches lay the foundation for a similar program. Adds Joe, “God does work in wonderful ways. Sometimes we have to do things that may not increase our numbers,
but simply provide a ministry to others. If the numbers come, fine - if not, fine too.
We never know who and how we affect others by our simple acts.”