KidREACH Connections

Meet Miabella, Fifolu, Margaret, and Beth!

Fifolu and Beth are tutors who make a profound difference in the lives of their students. Neither has an educational background, but both have a heart for children and find tutoring to be very rewarding.

Summers are particularly hard for students who struggle academically. As early as Grade 1, summer learning loss can be recognized. By the end of grade 6; students who have experienced summer learning loss over the years, are an average of two years behind their peers.

This is especially true for the children of parents whose first language is other than English. Learning a new language (ELL) impacts more than a person’s language skills and vocabulary – if they can’t read the directions, how can they succeed in math?  Fifolu and Beth help level the playing field for Miabella and Margaret.

Thanks to Fifolu, Miabella, a delightful second grader is catching up. Children often come to BelPres KidREACH feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, but by the time they are in High School, many students qualify for Advanced Placement courses. Giving hope to Miabella inspires her whole family. Her mother just completed her High School Diploma and is now in college taking bookkeeping courses. Miabella’s sister is also a KidREACH alumnus. She is currently a successful college graduate, working as a bookkeeper.

Fifolu is not only a tutor; she is a role model. She takes her own grades seriously and has helped inspire Miabella to love learning, especially reading. Miabella also feels loved and supported. She looks forward to tutoring each week and works hard.

Margaret and Beth have also built a secure connection this year. Margaret, also a second grader, is a delight. Her parents say tutoring is the highlight of her week. She loves Beth and can hardly wait to see her.

Both families are immigrants, and neither family could afford to pay for a tutor. They speak highly of this ministry’s effectiveness. This is true for all the families we minister to by KidREACH. Most families at BelPres KidREACH are immigrants from countries such as Rwanda, Congo, Guatemala, Mexico, Ukraine, and more. They enroll their children in the KidREACH Summer Tutoring because they know it helps level the playing field. It is also a powerful way of bringing about social justice and racial reconciliation.

Make a profound difference in the life of a child – be a Summer Tutor.

Interested in being a Summer Tutor? Teaching background is not necessary; all you need is a heart for children and a desire to give a child hope for a better life. Curriculum and support are provided. Summer Tutoring is for 4 weeks on Thursdays from 6pm-8pm. The dates are July 18, July 25, August 1 and August 8. Get additional information, contact: belpresserve@belpres.org

KidREACH spells Success

Jasey said, “I finished my first year pursuing a Masters in Social Work at the USC graduate school. Though USC has extremely high standards, through blood, sweat, and tears I was somehow able to meet their expectations.” There was a time when this level of success did not seem obtainable for Jasey.  When she came to KidREACH during high school she was struggling academically. “There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it or was cut out for this. It has taken a lot of patience and hard work. I don’t think I would have gotten this far without the help of KidREACH.”

KidREACH offers free one-on-one tutoring for students in grades K-12 who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Tutors not only support a student academically but have the opportunity to walk alongside and share God’s love with them. Tutors positively impact student’s lives by encouraging and appreciating them, celebrating their progress, supporting them in their struggles, and loving them as Jesus does.  In 2001, a group of BelPres members saw the need to actively serve the community by establishing KidREACH.  In the words of a former director, “In this ministry much more than solving tricky math problems or preparing for a vocabulary quiz takes place. God’s Kingdom comes alive in the energy and joy tutors find by serving the students. The smiles and laughter of the students and the peace experienced by the entire family are rewarding for tutors at the end of their busy days.  Now, after 17 years KidREACH is a thriving supportive community.”

Brandon, a current student, says, “My KidREACH tutor Drew helped me a lot. I started the year with all F’s and C’s, and by the time I hit summer vacation, I already had 4 A’s and three B’s thanks to my tutor.”   Brandon’s mom, Neta adds, “We feel blessed to be a part of the KidREACH family. The day we come for tutoring is our family’s favorite day of the week. We always feel welcomed and cared for. My sons love meeting with their tutors not only for academic support but also for emotional support. They enjoy talking and sharing with their tutors about how their day went and how they feel. The tutors and KidREACH Director, Lisa, are always there for us and continually offer help and support to our family. We are very grateful to them! KidREACH changed our life!”

KidREACH is currently looking for tutors for this school year.  There are students enrolled in most grade levels. KidREACH meets in the Upper Campus of BelPres on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. No experience is needed to become a tutor.  A weekly commitment of one evening and a heart for youth are all that is required.  For more information, please contact belpresserve@belpres.org

Keeping Children in School is the Right Thing

Everyday Counts

Julio, a bright eyed, energetic, six-year old first-grader in a Bellevue elementary school is chronically tardy and frequently absent from school. When the school’s attendance secretary called his home one morning, Julio answered the phone.  “She’s sleeping” said Julio when the secretary asked for Mom. “She worked all night cleaning at the hospital.” His mom does custodial work on the “graveyard” shift.

Studies show unequivocally that children who fall behind in learning in early grades are rarely able to catch up and experience academic success. Educators often say, “By third grade, you must learn to read and from then on, you must read to learn.” Julio, through no fault of his own, is losing ground every day he’s tardy or misses school altogether. He is just six years old.

Video games are the passion of Jesse (a middle-schooler).  He’s connected online with a group of middle school peers who compete head-to-head and, sometimes as groups, in combat-style games. Often, the competition heats up in the late evening and Jesse stays engaged into the wee hours of the morning.  Since his parents leave by 6:30 a.m. for work, they count on Jesse to get himself to school. Even when he attends, Jesse misses the first two or three periods of the school day.

Successful transitions from 5th to 6th grade and from 8th to 9th are critical to a student’s continued progress toward high school graduation.  Jesse got distracted by the video games as he began the first year of middle school.  Just when his parents work schedule required him to assume more personal responsibility for attending school, he slipped through the transition gap and cannot realize that his future is at stake.  A high school diploma is typically the minimum credential for long-term employment and life success. In Bellevue, the five-year high school graduation rate for the class of 2016 was 94.5%. This means that more than 80 students did not attain this crucial credential within five years of starting ninth grade. The students who did not complete high school are not randomly distributed throughout the population. They are mostly male (71%), often Black or Hispanic (31%), and likely face an additional challenge such as low family income (39%), limited English proficiency (20%), a special education need (32%), and/or being homeless (6%).

Community Support Required

Julio and Jesse represent a segment of the local student population in dire need of community support.  When students need an extra dose of structure or support to get attendance habits back on track, they connect with the Community Truancy Board (CTB) at the Bellevue School District. The CTB combines the power of the court, the resources of the school district, community members and the involvement of the family to respond effectively to a student’s truancy.  CTB engagement is often an effective way to: start the conversation with a family about student attendance, reestablish a connection between school staff and a student, and identify what changes need to occur to help the student get back on track.

 Volunteers Staff the CTB

The Board meets weekly and is staffed with community volunteers, district employees, and city staff.  Typically, a community volunteer serves just one day per month.  At the CTB meetings, conversations with students and their families surface many potential solutions to improve attendance.  CTB serves over 50 chronically absent students per year – meeting with most multiple times.

The CTB builds a culture of service among Board members so that, when children have an unmet need impacting their attendance, the community will find a way to address it. Board members have secured outside services for students and families through numerous organizations such as Jubilee REACH, Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA. The Kid REACH tutoring program at BelPres is also a factor in this culture of community support.

Community volunteers are trained before they hear cases at CTB. They learn skills of “mindful inquiry” and reflective listening.  Board members are non-judgmental, clear-spoken and interested in the safety and well-being of students and their families. They attend hearings on a regular basis, read background material on the cases, ask open-ended questions of students, parents/guardians and participate in creating recommendations for a plan to help students achieve regular school attendance.

 Student and Parent Testimonies

While the work of the CTB is a strategy for meeting the requirements of Washington State law mandating school attendance, the great benefits are those realized by the students who follow the Board’s recommendations and attend school. In the close of the past school year, the mother of a former chronically truant student expressed her gratitude to the CTB: “You helped very much in terms of motivation and support. Without you, we wouldn’t have known what to do… At the truancy board meetings, I learned the meaning of community:  it means our family and everyone coming together to help each other out. I am very grateful because, without them, my daughter would not have made a turn around and been recognized for it. She still has a ways to go but she graduated high school and is now taking classes at Bellevue College.”

The daughter rediscovered her potential and found the CTB to be a supportive community presence that held her accountable.  She said, “The Truancy Board was helpful because they kept me accountable to the plan. It was good to come to the meetings every month. Their encouragement helped me learn from my mistakes and I didn’t give up.”  Many students and families need the surrounding community to help them meet the challenges of daily life.  Children who experience academic success and graduate from high school with a post-secondary plan are better equipped for adult life, responsible citizenship and making a contribution to our community.

BelPres Involvement 

Multiple members of BelPres have served on the Community Truancy Board and attest to its value and results. In the words of Dave Cole, “The experience of being a part of the Truancy Board has been one of the most joyful experiences of my life.  Witnessing a vulnerable, young, male student – so deeply troubled from previous sexual abuse – successfully bond with a teacher who showed him unconditional love was truly amazing. Over time, the boy’s life was transformed.  I heard that teacher say, with tears rolling down her cheeks, ‘I love that child.’  The work of the CTB is remarkable.”

Approaching the new school year, the CTB has vacancies to be filled. Please contact Community Outreach Director, Tom Brewer for further information about serving on the CTB.

KidREACH: When Small Things Make a Big Difference

KIDReach tutor and student

Editor’s Note: The new director for KidREACH, Lisa Harold, shares her passion for education and the amazing work of volunteer tutors to students with significant educational needs. 

Small things can make a big difference, especially when it comes to education.

I was a corporate trainer for a call center. At the end of one training, a newly hired employee came to me and angrily told me he did not have time for homework. He said he was a single parent with two young children at home.

I was sympathetic and let him know that I understood that being a single parent is hard and has a lot of challenges. Then I asked if his children had homework. He looked suspicious as he cautiously said yes. Then I gave a small bit of encouragement that would ultimately make a big difference for generations:kidreach

I said, “Perhaps you could gather around the table after school and do your homework together. It would be a way of being a role model and showing your children that learning is a lifelong process. That learning doesn’t stop once you are out of school.”

And so it began. The family gathered around the table and did their homework. Once his new hire training ended, he modeled the notion that learning was a lifelong process by getting his GED. Then he received training to be a culinary chef.

Years later I was at 13 Coins, where he was a chef, and he came out to see me. He told me his oldest was graduating with a B average and going to college. He said his youngest was also getting B’s. I told him that was wonderful.

He proudly said, “You don’t understand. My son is the first person in my entire extended family that has ever so much as graduated from high school. And he’s getting B’s and going to college.”

Empowering people through education is the greatest opportunity to free people from the cycle of poverty that I am aware of. It’s why I’m humbled and honored to be the new KidREACH Director.

KidREACH provides free tutoring to children who not only struggle academically, but also often are dealing with the obstacles associated with poverty. However we do more than provide tutoring. We are present with the children and their families and show them the love of Jesus through our words and actions.

It’s not unusual for a student to feel overwhelmed and unmotivated when they begin with KidREACH. But they quickly realize they are loved and supported. Children become motivated to learn when they feel cared about. It makes a big difference.

Volunteer tutors develop deep, caring relationships with the students they work with. Most tutors do not have a teaching background. They take time out of their busy days week after week. Many start with a student when they are in kindergarten and stay with them for years.

Tutors delight in the “aha!” moments that take place when their students finally grasp concepts.  They have a passion for this ministry and wish they had more time with each child.  They wish there were more tutors because the need is so great.tutor compressed

Small things make a big difference. KidREACH tutors do millions of small things, week after week, year after year. It makes a big difference.

If you would like to learn more about this tutoring ministry or would like to be involved, please contact: belpres.org/getconnected

 

 

KidREACH Celebration

It is a known fact that BelPres seeks to actively serve others – bringing revival to the Eastside and around the world. This past year, I have personally seen God’s love manifested through many of you here at this church. God’s heart for His people is so evident to me at BelPres.  Tutors, students and families involved with KidREACH have shown me this. If you are not familiar with this tutoring ministry, you may ask yourself, “how is helping a struggling student with homework a part of Kingdom work”? The first words that come to mind are those of Jesus Christ instructing His disciples “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). These words spoken by God’s Son are powerful, yet humbling. In order to bring God’s Kingdom we must humble ourselves as Jesus teaches.

Tutors, volunteers, parents and students—the KidREACH family—have taught me that humility and dependence on Christ are absolutely necessary in order to be an effective worker for God in building His Kingdom. As children and youth, ranging between the ages of 5-18, begin tutoring often overwhelmed or lost in their studies, I see tutors exemplifying Christ by giving themselves up for these children. That being said, learning disabilities or lack of motivation do not disappear overnight or even over the course of a year, making the consistent commitment by tutors and families a necessity. The challenges are real and complicated for many of these students, but through relying on God and humbly sacrificing time and energy, volunteers are slowly seeing new confidence, motivation and interest in their student.

I am so grateful to God for His faithfulness to this amazing ministry!  In this ministry, much more than solving tricky math problems or preparing for a vocabulary quiz takes place. God’s Kingdom is alive in so many little things: the energy and joy tutors find by serving at the end of their busy days, the smiles and laughter of the students, and the peace seen in the entire family as a result of this supportive community. God’s Kingdom – a place where God is known, loved, and worshipped – is not only being built in the lives of the students and families that come for help, but in the lives of each volunteer as well. Lives are being transformed through snack time, talking about classes and life, and celebrating the culmination of another school year.  Tutors cement the truth that “it is better to give than receive” and that together, by humbly giving ourselves up for others, God’s Kingdom is brought to Earth.

Earlier this month KidREACH celebrated its 14th end-of-year party. The following pictures are proof that God’s Kingdom is alive and tangibly felt in this community.

If you would like to learn more about this tutoring ministry or would like to be involved, please contact GetConnected.

4 Things Every Volunteer Should Know

By Rev. Rich Leatherberry, Associate Pastor for Mission

Helping others is one of the best ways we can demonstrate the love of Jesus. Here are four principles that will make you a better volunteer and improve your experience.

1. Relationships come first.  We live in a task-oriented culture filled with micro-wave fixes to multiple source problems. We rush to solutions, try to fix or change something without really getting to know the other person. Relationships are God’s stage for life change. Regularly meeting with someone, loving them, listening to them, earning trust, staying with them no matter what is going on in their life, help us find out where someone is really aching and where they are faking in life. That’s when we discover what people really need. Relationships come first.

2. Come as a learner. We are lifelong students in God’s global classroom. We have so much to learn from the people we serve. They expand our hearts and help us become more compassionate people. They show us more about Jesus and what it means to be one of His followers. They teach us about love and grace and forgiveness. God not only uses us to make other people better. He uses other people to make us better, if we will let Him.

3. With not for. Jesus’ ministry was about empowering and releasing others. The feeding of the 5,000 is a great example. The disciples told Jesus there was a problem, i.e. there were lots of hungry people who needed something to eat. But instead of solving the problem for them, He did it with them. Jesus collected the food they had, blessed it and then gave it back to them to give away to the masses. The miracle happened as the disciples gave the food away and everyone was fed. Jesus didn’t do it for them. He did it with them, empowering and releasing them. Whatever you are doing to volunteer and serve, find ways to empower and release. Do it with others not for them.

4. All About Jesus. There are lots of reasons why we volunteer. One reason is because it feels good, i.e. “I do it for me.” A second reason is because it helps someone else, i.e. “I do it for them”.  These are great reasons but they can also have a dark side. For example, when “I do it for me’ then I am in danger of exploiting other people for my benefit and my greatest concern becomes whether this is working out well for me. Similarly, when “I do it for them”, I am in danger of placing all my expectations on them. They need to become who I think they should be, do what I think they should do and improve according to the timelines I have set. But when this happens, burn-out, frustration and deep disappointment are not far behind.
A third reason to volunteer is for love of Jesus, all that He is and all that He does to rescue this world. (I do it for Him). There is no dark side here.  Jesus is the reason we serve and the one who serves through us. We serve with His love and compassion, act as His hands and feet, accept and forgive others with His grace. And when it’s all for Jesus then everyone gets better; the volunteer and the people we serve .

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Let me know what you think. What has been your greatest challenge as a volunteer? What principles have helped you the most?