With many schools being overcrowded and underfunded and parents often working more than one job to survive in the face of inflation, the ripple effects of the pandemic have been magnified. Learning for elementary-aged students is bound to suffer. Particularly hard hit are those students who have additional learning challenges. Currently, there are not enough resources available to many schools to make up for these external factors. The Deer Park City School District is no exception to the national and local challenges.
For 23 students, there is a bright spot that has improved their school experience. The Deer Park City School District and Kenwood Baptist Church have found a way to help students succeed. A local program called Kenwood Tutoring at Kenwood Baptist Church has stepped up to serve these families. The program addresses the gap between what schools and families can provide and what students need for success.
The Kenwood Tutoring program assists students (grades K through 5) who have been identified by Deer Park City Schools as needing additional academic support in literacy and/or math. Every Wednesday night, September through November and January through late April, tutors meet one-on-one with 23 students.
Tutors are comprised of retired teachers, engineers, community and business leaders, honors high school students, and parents with a lifetime of helping their own children. Tutors also receive additional training from the Kenwood Tutoring program. Current and former teachers support the program by preparing individualized folders for each child each week, providing suggestions for tutors, and general consulting. Two reading specialists serve as consultants to help parents interpret Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
Students and tutors are matched based on personalities and remain together for the duration of the school year, but often stay together for years. The long-term relationships foster trust, friendship, a life-long love of learning, self-esteem, and confidence in learning. Melody Hamilton, Kenwood Baptist Church Outreach Coordinator, explained, “These are the kids who don’t raise their hands at school. We teach them: ‘You are valued. You are smart. We really appreciate your insights.’ We’ve heard from teachers and parents that their confidence in class is better.”
Patricia Hadden, Director of Student Services at Deer Park City Schools, said, “Kenwood Baptist volunteers have worked with Amity Elementary Students for several years through the tutoring program. I would not really call the volunteers tutors, but rather servants. These selfless individuals provide our students with far more than just support in reading and math. The program builds on relationships and develops a student's confidence and sense of belonging.”
Another important part of this program is the mentoring and care for the family along with the student. “We try to serve the whole family. When their families were sick with Covid, we delivered meals and groceries. We celebrate their accomplishments. We have tutors going to ball games and plays. We check in during the week and send birthday cards,” Hamilton said.
Both a measure and a factor in the success of the program is the weekly attendance. “Our attendance is very good. Of the 23 kids we tutor regularly, we have a 90% attendance rate. The kids want to be here,” Hamilton said. Parents have seen enough positive effects from the program to commit to bringing their children every week.
Hadden echoed the benefits of the holistic approach. “Students and families can find a smile, a meal, and support each time they attend. Parents find a safe place to share concerns while finding encouragement and support without judgment. This program works well because Kenwood has the ability to take families where they are and build them up. Deer Park is grateful for their partnership with our community,” said Hadden.
Bria Grigsby, whose son has been tutored for three years, said, “Being a part of the tutoring program at Kenwood Baptist Church has truly been a blessing to my son and me We were referred a couple of years ago and the rest is history. We love it and look forward to every Wednesday. My son has received nothing but positive educational support throughout his years not only from his personal tutor but from other tutors as well. This program has constantly found new fun ways to continue keeping my son engaged. It has also built his confidence within the classroom as he’s progressing. Taking interest in the tutoring program was a great step my son needed.”
Hamilton summed up the attitude of the program and its volunteers: “We encourage the parents as much as we do the students. We think the parents are rock stars. After a long day of work or juggling work and other children, they bring their kids here.”
Kenwood Baptist Church will complete a $4.6 million renovation in May 2022. The renovation includes new one-on-one and group meeting spaces, a new entrance, a new lobby area, a new entrance for the Children’s Wing, and many more parking spaces. The main Sanctuary has also been renovated. The public is invited for refreshments and to view the new spaces at the Grand Re-Opening celebration at 12:30 PM, Sunday, June 12, 2022.
To volunteer as a tutor, contact Melody Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’