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December 12, 2013

With a little help: Church, school partner for tutoring

Church, school partner for elementary tutoring

A second-grade boy slowly etched a number onto his worksheet with his pencil.

"You have an eight that goes here ... a zero that goes here," coached his tutor, 17-year-old Caleb Sedam. The pair were catching up on math homework at an after-school tutoring program started this year at Franklin Elementary School.

Kids Club, a program for first- through third-graders at Franklin, launched this fall under the auspices of Webb Chapel United Methodist Church and its pastor, the Rev. Bill Bergstrom. Some 40 to 45 children stay after school on Wednesdays for the faith-infused program that runs from about 3 p.m. until after 4 p.m.

The church had operated a similar after-school program at the Salvation Army off and on during two previous school years, according to Bergstrom, but few children attended.

"I thought, well, if we can't get children to come to us," he said, "we'll go to them."

The church, which averages about 85 people on a Sunday morning, approached school administrators to ask to use the space for an after-school tutoring and Christian education program. The church supplies the volunteers, supplies and snacks. The school sent out and collected children's permission slips and provides the space each week.

"We wanted to reach out and serve the community in some way," Bergstrom said.

Administrators welcomed the idea, volunteer Marla Sellers said. Now in her 34th year of teaching, the second-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary was the church's first connection to the school. About 10 of her students also attend Kids Club, she said, where she feels freer to answer their questions related to morals and Christianity.

That's one of the things she loves about the program.

"During the school day I can't teach about the Lord," Sellers said. "After school, I can."

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