Ten students in the fall and 10 in the spring received one-on-one tutoring and help with reading, math and homework over 10-week periods each season. The school’s guidance counselor helped make final recommendations on the students accepted to the program based on need and resources. The counselor worked with Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, the After School Program Coordinator for Burien Community Church.
The tutoring, involving church and community volunteers, took place on Tuesday afternoons, the day students receive their “homework packs” for the entire week. On that day the guidance counselor and/or social work intern at the school met the tutors and walked the children to the church. The afternoon sessions included not only the tutoring but also educational games, use of art supplies, or helping the church with its community garden once homework was completed.
“Our fall program was a huge success with remarkable gains in our students’ work according to reports we received from teachers,” Pastor Mindi said. She said each season featured a different mix of students. “In the fall, more families stayed for meals we offered as part of the program,” Pastor Mindi explained. “We invite the families, including siblings, to join us for a meal or take meals to go as many of them are just getting off work, and most of our families come from households with limited income. In the spring more of our families took their meals to go, and so it was harder to foster community in the beginning.”
Most of the students participating in the initiative have severe economic disadvantages. Many of the students from this past spring also had emotional struggles, Pastor Mindi pointed out. One 9-year-old had lost his mother to cancer the year before. Another had a change in family status involving a new step-parent. “These students desperately needed another adult in their life to listen and encourage them,” Pastor Mindi said.
“One of the joys of this program is that it has truly become a community effort,” Pastor Mindi notes. “Every 10-week session has managed to gather in at least one volunteer from the community to help. This past year we had a high-school volunteer, along with our 91-year old volunteer, “Sarge,” a World War II veteran.
The Matthew 25 grant provided meals and snacks, refurbished computers as well as supplies and training for the volunteers. In-kind donations and some funds from the church budget provided some funding support for the initiative. The program will continue for the coming school year with a surplus of funds used to purchase additional needed refurbished computers.
“We are a little church with a big heart,” Pastor Mindi said, “and we are grateful that the Matthew 25 grant has helped us to love the children in our community, especially those in need of on-on-one guidance and help.”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.”