Churches reach out to struggling students

CNJ staff photo: Benna Sayyed Priscila Osorio, right, receives tutoring in reading from Peggy McAlister on Wednesday at Central Baptist Church. Osorio also received a writing lesson during which she wrote her thoughts on how she would feel if the sun didn’t shine.

Benna Sayyed

Priscila Osorio was making Cs and Ds in her classes before attending the Whiz Kids tutoring program, an outreach program connected to three area churches.

Osorio, a sixth-grade student at Zia Elementary, enrolled with Whiz Kids in August 2011 to receive help with reading and math. The results speak for themselves.

She recently made the school’s A honor roll.

“I got good comments from my teachers,” Osorio said. “This makes me feel glad and happy,” she said.

Whiz Kids is a program that partners volunteer academic tutors from local churches with elementary students. After school staff identify students in need of help, each student is paired with a tutor who has been given a background check and received training in tutoring elementary students. The program tutors children in multiple of subjects but focuses on reading.

“A child who is not proficient in reading, especially reading, has a very hard time doing anything else,” said Zella Furrow, Whiz Kids site coordinator at Central Baptist Church.

“Besides reading I hope that we would also be able to mentor in the childrens’ lives enough to be able to be aware of maybe a unhappy situation at home.”

Central Baptist works with 26 children from Zia and Mesa elementary. Kingswood Methodist has a Whiz Kids site for Highland Elementary; West 21st Street Church of Christ has a Whiz Kids site for Cameo Elementary.

Tutoring starts in the first week in October and lasts through April. School teachers supply tutors each student’s work and students receive an hour of tutoring every week. Furrow said the target group is third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to boost their self-esteem,” Furrow said. “Their confidence will improve as their abilities improve. It gives them a small group to kind of star in, shine in.”

Trent Allen, a fifth-grade student at Mesa Elementary moved to Clovis from Salem, Ore., six months ago and began struggling with reading, math and language arts.

“I needed some help on some things because I was so confused with everything,” Allen said. He said his confusion diminished after attending Whiz Kids.

“My mom makes me take my spelling words for my tutor to help me,” Allen said. “He says it and I have to write it down. Every word I miss I have to write five times. This can really help me to get a good grade.”

Eric Daale and his wife became Whiz Kids tutors because they wanted a way to help children academically and minister to them.

“It’s rewarding to see kids improving in their reading and math,” Daale said. “What’s most enjoyable is to see them light up and be interested in the word of God and the Bible stories that we have afterward.”

Contact: Steve Reshetar, 762-4727.