December is a season for individuals to open their hearts to those around them. For fifteen years, members at Ninth Street Church of Christ purposed to accomplish this task year round through their JOY ministry.
After school, Monday through Thursday, volunteers give their time and efforts to mentor and tutor students. The goal is for students to end the school year with more confidence and gain the skills needed to be successful, not only in the classroom, but as citizens in the community.
Heather Price, teacher at Morgan Elementary, testifies to the ministries’ effectiveness within the classroom, “After attending the tutoring program, students walk into my classroom prepared. Their homework is complete and they are ready to start the day.”
Heather not only serves as classroom teacher, but is also a member of Ninth Street Church of Christ and has volunteered for the tutoring program for many years. The lessons students receive go beyond improving academics. Heather explains, “Not only are students assisted with homework and academics at Ninth Street, but students are taught about the Bible, social skills, and how to be a good citizen by following the rules and being a leader. All these lessons taught during the tutoring program have an impact on the students’ behavior at school, church, home, and out in the community.”
Students experience growth beyond the classroom. Heather explains, “One student, in particular, gained a better sense of self while attending Ninth Street’s tutoring program through the social hour. She was able to open up about personal issues and find comfort knowing that we, the volunteers at church, cared about her in every aspect, not just academically.”
Many times students possess poor attitudes toward school, others, and themselves. They sometimes internalize feelings of inadequacy and as a result react in anger or frustration. This in turn manifests itself as behavior issues in the classroom and at home.
Sal Patterson, member of Ninth Street Church of Christ, volunteers for the program. He sees the frustration in the children change over time, “Students come in angry or disappointed, but in the end leave calm. They realize they can think things through instead of reacting. We try to teach them there are other means of expressing yourself without responding or lashing out.”
Sal and other volunteers know all too well the struggles some children face. Stanley Williams, coordinator of the church’s We are Family mentor program, shares his experience as a child, “I came from a single parent home. It’s different when you come from a two parent home versus a single parent home. You feel left out.”
Stanley’s passion to help the students comes from his struggles growing up. He knows what it feels like to be left out when you want nothing more than to just be accepted. He walked the path many of these children walk and understands the difficult choices they face. He shares, “Growing up in a single parent home, you have more time to do what you want to do. Mom’s not around so I can go do this or that. If I can show them a different path by telling them how I grew up, then maybe it will change someone’s life.”
Sal sees himself in the students as well, “A lot of these kids are me. I was a latch key kid. Mom was working. I would get home and the food was there. I’d come home, do homework, eat supper, and then watch t.v. Sometimes these kids come home and there is no food to eat. They have to do their homework and sit around and wait.”
The children wait for food, not because the parents aren’t providing it, but just the opposite. Andiamo White, tutoring coordinator explains, “It may not be that their parents aren’t cooking, but the fact that they are working a second job.”
The second and sometimes third job the parents take on to provide for their families adds to the burden the families and children face. It is this burden that Ninth Street Church of Christ hopes to relieve. Sal encourages, “We want to assist families in whatever way we can. If we don’t have the means, we will try to find the means to help them.”
Outside of meeting academic needs of the children through tutoring or providing for physical needs such as shelter, food, water, or clothing, Pastor Mark Rowe and the volunteers from the congregation want to offer hope. Pastor Mark wants families to know they are welcome and loved, no matter the circumstance. He encourages, “Come as you are whatever your situation.”
Whatever the need, great or small, the heart of the congregation is to serve Jesus by loving others as He loved by providing a place of refuge for the children and their families. They accomplish their mission by living out the message they share with the children in the JOY ministry. Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last.
For more information or to volunteer as a tutor or mentor with the JOY ministry, please contact Ninth Street Church of Christ at 270-442-3702.
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