The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 14, 2012

Tutoring joy

Program between school, church provides snacks, homework help

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — A partnership between Enid’s First Presbyterian Church and McKinley Elementary School is the foundation of a tutoring program that quietly has benefitted students for more than 13 years.

Each Wednesday after school, church members pick up students — there are 23 in this year’s group — and take them to the church building for a snack, some fun and plenty of homework help.

According to Gail Wynne, longtime volunteer and coordinator of the tutoring program, many of the 30 volunteer tutors have been at it from the first days.

In addition to the adult tutors, seven volunteers prepare and serve a snack for the students, two high school students help with physical education and recreation and two other high school students — one a former McKinley student tutored in the program — help out wherever they are needed.

“I just like to help out,” Jason Graham said. “I came for the school year — it’s my first year tutoring. I was tutored here for three years before this.”

Jason recruited his friend, Austin Vogt, to volunteer as well. Both the high school freshmen brought their guitars along on a recent Wednesday to provide music for the younger students.

The program is geared to take as many as 26 students each year. Which students participate is a decision made by the school and their parents.

Jan Robinson, principal at McKinley, said the tutoring program was the best thing she inherited when she became principal 11 years ago.

Most of the students selected for the program are third- to fifth-graders, Robinson said.

There are other factors, such as emotional or social aspects and school needs, that might inspire the school to offer the program to individual students.

“It’s lots of things,” Robinson said. “A piece could be academic struggles, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve had children who are super academic stars in school.”

Robinson takes more interest than simply designating which children are offered the tutoring program.

She takes pains to ensure the students and the school grow from the experience in more ways than academics.

“Last year, I challenged them to work with us on multiplication skills,” Robinson said.

They made so much progress, the school’s test scores went up.

One tutor, Jerry Shipley, forged such a warm bond with a McKinley student from a couple years ago, the pair still spend time together and have lunch a couple times a month at Waller Middle School.

“He’s a wrestler, and he likes to talk about his wrestling,” Shipley said. “He does well because he’s a well-built boy.”

But the real estate broker and residential builder said he gets more out of the program than he puts in.

“Being around youth, watching them progress and grow,” Shipley said, “it’s a joy to be around them.”

You couldn’t persuade Robinson it’s the tutors who benefit most, though.

“I’m so passionate about it, I feel like I don’t have adequate words for what it does for those kids,” Robinson said. “It takes my breath away to see them, children and adults, shoulder to shoulder, smiling and reading.”