Tutoring adds up for pair of churches
Whiz Kids wins city award
By CHRIS SCHUTZ, Contributing Writer
A partnership between Wesley United Methodist Church and UM Church of the Servant is helping spell success for students at an Oklahoma City school.
The two churches agreed to pool their resources and offer tutoring through the citywide Whiz Kids program to students at Edgemere Elementary School, 3200 N. Walker Ave. They launched for the 2011-12 school year.
Their efforts have succeeded so well that their site won the "Shooting Star Award" on March 26 during the annual City Care "Seeds of Hope" banquet in the downtown convention center. In Oklahoma City, the nonprofit, faith-based agency City Care oversees all the sites. Several other UM churches also are among Whiz Kids hosts.
In the paired program by Wesley UMC and Church of the Servant, student and tutor participation have nearly doubled. Today about 50 children are enrolled, each with his or her own tutor.
Wesley UMC, located at 1401 N.W. 25th, contributes its fellowship hall for group activities and smaller rooms for individual tutoring.
Church of the Servant, located 12 miles away at 14343 N. MacArthur Ave., furnishes many of the tutors and helps pay expenses of the program, said Robyn Goggs, an associate minister there. Coordinators from both churches deal with the logistics of the program, Rev. Goggs said.
The children are picked up after school on Mondays in vans from Wesley Church and the nearby United Methodist Ministry Center, said Diana Cox Crawford, Wesley’s senior pastor.
When children get to Wesley, they get "a good snack. Really, a full meal," Rev. Crawford said.
Next, it’s Club Time, when the children get a Bible lesson. Among the lessons is one about the friendship of Ruth and Naomi, linked to maintaining a relationship with Jesus Christ, Goggs said.
Then the children sit down with their tutors to practice reading.
It’s "one-on-one reading enhancement that has a spiritual aspect," said Ron Otte, an administrative assistant at Wesley.
When the program ends for the day, tutors pair up to drive the children home, Crawford said.
Many of the students read below grade-level when they start in Whiz Kids. Program leaders and volunteers were gratified to learn that school test scores showed improvement by all the students enrolled in the program’s first year, Goggs said.
Among the tutors are a husband-and-wife team from Church of the Servant, Randy and Gayle Dekker.
Randy is tutoring the same boy for a second year, which is not typical, he noted. Whiz Kids families tend to move frequently because of their circumstances. Randy said, "Oftentimes they leave the school district."
A retired social worker, he hopes to make a difference through Whiz Kids. "My heart has always been with those that are less privileged."
Education is "one of the keys to getting out of poverty," he said.
Gayle said she became a tutor because she has always enjoyed opportunities to teach through her work at banks and in the state’s vo-tech system. The student she is tutoring for a second year is a fourth-grade girl.
"I think (Whiz Kids) is a very worthwhile program. The children certainly seem to love it," Gayle said.
She praised the church members for their willingness to help Whiz Kids with money and time. "They really respond when they’re asked to give."
Marsha Haubelt, a retired kindergarten teacher and also a member at Church of the Servant, decided to become a tutor because "I’ve always wanted to still work with children."
She works with a fourth-grade girl who already was reading above grade level. "I think I’m there mainly as a mentor," she said. In addition to improving their reading skills, Whiz Kids learn life skills from their tutors, Marsha said.
Wesley Church is dedicated to reaching out to neighborhood children, many of whom are from low-income families, Pastor Crawford said. And she is pleased about the partnership with Church of the Servant. "I feel very strongly about working cooperatively with others," she said.