As a retired public high school educator attending Westside United Methodist Church in Lima, OH, Carol Blass, Certified Lay Minister, partnered with her pastor to develop an after-school tutoring program. This tutoring program serves Kindergarten through eighth grade students from the school district in which Westside United Methodist Church resides.
When approaching the administrations in the three school buildings that the targeted age-level students would be attending, Carol and her pastor were quickly embraced and encouraged by the administrators in developing this strategic partnership. The principals demonstrated their support by offering transportation for participating students from the schools to the church. Westside After-School Tutoring began its ministry by providing one hour a week of tutoring assistance so that students could complete their homework and enjoy a healthy snack. At the end of that hour, parents came to the church to pick their children up.
Over fourteen years, Westside After-School Tutoring has become friends with over 760 students, and volunteer mentors have personally witnessed young lives being changed. “Our mentors encourage students to take pride in their work and intentionally build authentic relationships with students,” Carol shares. Westside United Methodist Church provides a safe environment, promotes study skills and is committed to equipping successful students in school; however, it is the relationships between student peers and the adult mentors that is making the greatest impact.
Carol continues, “We quickly saw the need for students to learn how to interact with one another and adults in a positive manner. In order to meet that need we began the Helping Hand Project to immediately follow the tutoring experience.”
The “Helping Hand Project” includes Club K.I.D.’s (Kids In Discipleship) for the Kindergarten - 4th graders and Junior Warriors for 5th - 8th graders. This ministry is a 2-hour extension after tutoring when students stay voluntarily for a light meal, recreation and a Bible lesson applicable to their life today. “We have retained over 65 percent of the students. They choose to stay for the extended programming. Our students have attended Lakeside Camp, joined our youth group on Sunday afternoons and participate in various activities at the church. Families are beginning to become more involved as we are intentionally striving to deepen those relationships through small group learning,” commented Rev. Bill Cronk.
Westside After-School Tutoring and Helping Hands Project utilizes 25 to 30 volunteers (ages from 17 - 90) each year in the program. These lay persons deeply desire to share the love of Jesus with others. Some of the mentors had not worked with children in the past, but have found many blessings through the power of relationships with the students. Several tutors have expressed how much they enjoyed getting to know the students and found them “not really so different from when we were young.” One tutor shared, “Seeing the smile on a face when a student understands what was being taught is great, but getting to personally know the children is priceless.”