By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
There have been numerous studies done over the years on the effects of not just the school and family, but also the community on student achievement. The church is considered to be one of the entities in the community that has had a positive influence in higher achievements by students, especially when it provides very specific and focused learning.
So it was only providential that Pastor Gwendolyn Sanders, a former school administrator and educator, would start a tutoring program in her church. Pastor Gwendolyn Sanders of Davis Memorial AME Church felt the Lord gave her work to do with children on building their math, reading and writing skills. Sanders reached out to volunteers at her church and started The Saturday Enrichment Program.
Held each first and third Saturday of each month the Saturday Enrichment Program provides help to students ages kindergarten through 8th grade with the help of volunteers from the church. The volunteers range in ages from 17 to 60 years.
Although Pastor Sanders worked in the Gary Community School Corporation as a teacher and administrator these volunteers are not teachers. The volunteers are two high school students and three college students who are members of the church. Their program is focused on improving achievement by developing their knowledge in specific learning areas. Sanders said, “What we are doing is helping the children with their reading, writing and math skills. We are not trying to take the place of their teachers.”
The children are provided a snack during the 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. time they are there. Currently, they have 15 children in the program, which can accommodate a maximum of 20 students. Pastor Sanders said, “We want to maintain an effective ratio of volunteers to students to provide a one-on-one opportunity that works with whatever issue they may have.”
According to Pastor Sanders, parents have seen an improvement in their children’s schoolwork within the first month of enrollment in the program. She said several students showed improvement in recent school progress reports as well.
Although some of the students are members of the church, Pastor Sanders said they have also recruited some of their young people by walking throughout the church’s neighborhood passing out flyers, talking about it on radio programs and in response to flyers distributed at McCullough Elementary School, as well as by word of mouth.
The program will run until the end of the school year then Pastor Sanders plans to continue it into the summer. She said, “The program is totally volunteer and all of the teaching materials used in the program are donated by church members. The Gary Public Library has donated books, the computer lab, and furniture. The church members donated the snacks for the children. The program is working out very well at providing the added help that the students need.”