Both parents and public school teachers have expressed appreciation for the Caring Hands Tutoring Program offered for students from kindergarten through 12th grade at Willow Street Christian Church, 404 Willow St., in Hannibal, Mo.
“We average 13 a night and have had as many as 19,” said Pastor Minnie Smith, minister of the sponsoring church.
“The ones that come for the most part are constant, and they are there because they want to be there, and their families want us to be there. … One lady said last week, ‘You don’t know how much we appreciate it.’
“I had a letter from a public school teacher that has seen a difference in some of the students in his classroom that have been helped tremendously, and he knows that without support someplace else, they would not be prepared for the next day. So it is a win-win situation for everybody.
“The beauty of it is, if a kid comes in and wants to work, and finishes their homework, they are ready for the next day at 5 o’clock, and they can spend the evening doing fun things with their family,” Smith said.
The program is offered from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday each day public schools are in session, so it resumed Jan. 8 after the Christmas break.
“We have a computer lab with Internet access,” Smith continued. “Where kids don’t have computers with Internet at home, this lends that opportunity.
“We have four computers with Internet access. It is a safe environment. They don’t get on computers unless they have a tutor with them.”
Daily reading is a requirement, she added. “All the students we see are required to read at least 20 minutes a day. If they don’t bring a book, we have an assortment of books for their grade level. They are bought from the public library at its sales.”
The students work quietly, Smith said. “After they finish their work, it’s a study hall environment. When they are finished, they can have a snack, then they leave. They are nutritious snacks and juice.”
The tutors are a vital part of the program, Smith explained. “We have an average of five tutors on duty each night and they work the full two hours. It works out good for them and they appreciate it.”
Tutors include teachers, retired teachers and substitute teachers, but they are mostly Hannibal-LaGrange University students who are in the education program. They are selected by the HLGU faculty, Smith said, and they are paid, which helps with their college expenses.
Page 2 of 2 - “The tutors this year are just wonderful,” she added. “They come in and are ready to work. And if they are not going to be there because of a conflict with their schooling they are very intentional about letting me know ahead of time.
They are very conscientious. And we have received two letters of recommendation from HLGU faculty members, saying it was a wonderful opportunity for their students to help offset their expenses.
“Also,” Smith explained, “it gives them an opportunity to work with children of different sociological backgrounds.”
Having five tutors each day is also beneficial, Smith said. “It’s a wonderful thing, because if a kid needs one-on-one help, they will get it. … We try to pair them up with the same tutor so they can get a relationship established.”
Records also are kept, Smith said. “We keep up with them, looking at their progress reports with their teachers, so we know about their assignments.” If needed, “we converse with the classroom teacher.”
“Financing is key” to the tutoring program’s success, because it pays for the tutors, school supplies and other costs, Smith said.
She expressed her appreciation for the assistance received. “The community is very, very supportive. This is our third year of operation, and the service organizations and foundations and individuals have been very, very supportive with their finances.” Two churches also help on a regular basis.
Smith is director of the program, and anyone wanting more details or wishing to make a donation may contact her at Willow Street Christian Church at (573) 221-4344, or send a donation to the Caring Hands Tutoring Program, P.O. Box 1169, Hannibal, Mo.
“What we don’t raise, we give,” she said, “because we want to provide the service.”