CHANGE FOR CHILDREN: Cowan Chapel helps students who need academic boost

CHANGE FOR CHILDREN: Cowan Chapel helps students who need academic boost

A new program geared to helping students get on track with their schooling now has laptop computers, supplies, and whatever else they need, thanks to a $2,500 Change for Children grant.

The Tutoring Program at Cowan Chapel UMC in Oak Ridge District helps children who are either in special education programs or are not working at grade level get on track in academics. These students, from first through 12th grade, receive tutoring in reading, math, and foreign language, according to Carol Guthrie, chairperson of the program’s administrative council. Guthrie has worked in the mental health field for many years.

“I recognize that (some of) these children should not be in special ed,” Guthrie said. “Our program is geared to curriculum in school so they get caught up and on track in the regular curriculum, so they can get pulled out of special ed.”

The program uses adult volunteers and peer tutors: high school students who work with the younger students. Guthrie said getting the teens involved benefits everyone. For example, some of the high school students who are at a fifth grade level themselves will work with the fifth graders. They benefit not only by helping others do better, but it improves their skills as well. When the teens catch up in that level, then they will start working with another grade level, such as eighth graders.

The program started Aug. 1. Currently anywhere from 10 to 15 students participate in the program at the church. Fifteen to 25 adults volunteer with the program, either working hands-on with the students or providing snacks. Guthrie said the grant allowed program officials purchase needed supplies. The church had already planned to start the program before they received the good news about the Change for Children grant.

“It is important to us, and we were going to do it whether we got the money or not,” Guthrie said, “but the money sure helped.”

Though the program more than likely will stop during the summer, Guthrie plans to work with a few participants year-round, primarily those she believes might regress during the summer if tutoring stops.

Guthrie said students in the program have improved their grades and interest in school. One little girl, for example, struggled in kindergarten. Now, she can recognize letters, numbers and work on her level.

“They’re also learning the importance of education,” Guthrie said.

Besides the tutoring program, the church formed a praise and worship dance team comprised of tutored children and peer tutors as an extracurricular activity. They perform in different churches throughout the area and will perform at Resurrection this year.

Cowan Chapel has 60 active adult members. The majority of those attending the church are children.

“We are very proud of that and we intend to keep them here and keep them focused,” Guthrie said.