SIDNEY — Most children love to jump into activities feet first. From the mud puddle where they don’t care who gets wet to playing full steam until they are exhausted.
For a group of local children, they have jumped into a summer program with all their energies as they prepare to go back to school.
The First Presbyterian Church, in conjunction with the Sidney City Schools elementary buildings, hosted a two-week Jump Start Tutoring program to help the children meet academic needs before the first day of school.
Sarah Steenrod, Richlynn Moore and Kathy Keith coordinated the summer program, which was attended by more than 40 children.
“Fifteen years ago, we started an afterschool program through the church,” said Steenrod. “It morphed through the years and we partnered with Central Elementary School for the afterschool program.
“This is the third summer that we’ve held a tutoring program,” she said. “We decided to do this instead of vacation Bible school.”
“God sends us tutors and students,” said Moore, who is a retired teacher. “We’ve had volunteers walk into an open house and say they want to work with the kids.”
All of the children in the summer program were referred by their teacheers.
“They need an extra boost before school starts,” said Steenrod. “We have specific skills to help them.”
Three teachers-to-be who are in college have volunteered to be tutors. There are also current high school students serving as volunteers. This allows them to earn credits for National Honor Society.
There are also many adult volunteers who assisted with the program. Some of the volunteers, said Steenrod, are members of the church, volunteer at the schools during the school year and one is an aide at Sidney High School.
“We have all ages of volunteers,” said Steenrod. One 87-year-old is Steenrod’s father who has volunteered since the beginning of the afterschool program.
“This two-week program consisted of two sessions per day,” said Steenrod. “We had 45 students enrolled.”
Skills the volunteers worked on with the students included reading, math analysis, writing, reference and classroom behavior.
“This is the first time we’ve done the program this way,” said Steenrod. Because of construction at the church, they decided to do the two-week program instead of having it all summer long.
“With Sidney City Schools departmentalizing at younger grades, the teachers are focusing on one or two classes,” said Moore. “We are seeing a lot of pros to that. So we’re doing it this way to see how we feel about the changes.”
During the sessions, students spent 15 minutes at each of their work stations.
“This helps the lead teacher/tutor focus on one aspect of teaching,” said Steenrod. “They can see what the kids are struggling with. It’s also good to rotate the students within different classes with different personalities of students.”
The referring teachers, said Steenrod, told them what skills the students needed to work on during the Jump Start program.
“We’ll be notifying the teachers of which students did come and what we worked on for their skills,” she said. “Then we’ll ask what we can do to help this school year.”
Steenrod, who is a licensed teacher in preschool and special education, became the program coordinator when her family moved back to Sidney from Indiana.
“This is my favorite thing to do at the church,” said Steenrod. “I also do like the Turkey Trot the church sponsors.”
At the end of each day, the students and their tutors pray, said Steenrod.
“We have a chalkboard cross where they can write their thoughts,” said Moore.
“It’s amazing what they want to pray about,” said Steenrod. “The academic skills are important, which is why we’re offering this type of program. But more important are the relationships they are building. This program helps with their self esteem and confidence.”
As an added bonus, each student gets to take a book home each day after the classes. The books were donated to the program.
“This has been a great program,” said Keith, who is Sidney City Schools teacher. “I’d just like to say how nice the people are here.”
Keith is also excited that one of the focuses of the program is on reading.
During the afterschool tutoring program during the school year, students come to the church on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
“Our focus in on academics,” said Steenrod. “We have a snack time and a down time for the students” in addition to working on the skills the students’s need in the classroom.
“We communicate with the teachers,” said Steenrod. “We email the teacher when a student enrolls and we ask them what the student needs.
“We have a really good partnership with the schools. They know who we are and what we’re about.”
Sidney City Schools Director of Curriculum Brooke Gessler appreciates all the work the tutors and volunteers have done for the district’s students.
“When members of our community invest their time supporting our students, everyone benefits: our students, our families, our schools, and our community,” said Gessler. “There are lessons learned from programs like this one that extend beyond academics, though those are important. Our students learn unspoken lessons of philanthropy, collaboration, and compassion when community volunteers work to provide programs outside of the classroom and school walls.
“As an educator, I appreciate community efforts like this that focus on spending time helping our students become stronger learners of academics and life,” she said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.