Volunteer program keeps students on track over the summer

By David Paulk



In an attempt to keep students’ minds fresh, a local resident has taken upon herself to educate them over the summer.

Karen Hutchins, a member of Frontline Ministries Church, is starting a program called “The Next Generation of Leaders.” The purpose is to provide educational stimulation for elementary school students during the summer break.

The program, which started on June 22 and ends July 31, is aimed at kids ages 10-14, Hutchins said. Admission into the program is free, and is held at the Frontline Ministries.

Kids in the program will be exposed to lessons in math, English, and science. Her hope is that the lessons will supplement what kids learn in school and so help them be prepared come fall.

“Students lose a lot over the summer because they’re not in school,” said Phyllis Brooks Collins, a program volunteer.

Since this is the first year, membership is open to all students between 10 and 14. Collins and Hutchins plan to narrow their focus to at-risk children.

“Over time we’ll start to look at how we determine who’s at risk and who’s not,” said Collins. “It could be grades, it could be family structure, it could be a lot of different reasons.”

During her program, kids will be spending time with educators who will teach them writing skills, math, and even a few courses in leadership.

So far, Hutchins said 25 students have been enrolled. Some of the schools she reached out to include Central Middle School, William Henry Middle School, and W. Reilly Brown Elementary.

She saw the opportunity to help out while she was mentoring at schools in the area and found certain gaps in the education that she thought needed to be addressed.

“I didn’t know that kids weren’t taught how to write in cursive,” she said. “That was pretty interesting to me.

“I love children and just wanted them to be the best that they can be. I noticed some of them had great potential.”

Collins added that one of the main benefits of the program is that it’s free. Families can enroll their kids without worrying about it impacting their finances.

“We’re doing out of real care for young people. We’re not doing it to make money or make a name we want to provide this for our youth because a lot of them aren’t getting it,” Collins said.

William Henry Middle School Principal Toriano Giddens said he supports the effort because it will help the kids retain what they learned during the school year. He said Hutchins’ program will especially benefit students who aren’t required to go to summer school.

“There are some kids that without that enrichment they tend to get lost, they don’t learn as fast as others and they tend to struggle when they come back to school,” Giddens said. “This actually fills the gaps for those kids because they get continuous learning over the summer.”

In addition to keeping the students fresh before school starts, Giddens said, the extra work will prepare them for Common Core standards.

“As we’re moving forward into the Common Core we need our kids to be able to perform as well as any kid across the country or across the world for that matter,” Giddens said.

“There are disadvantages in certain households and limited access to resources over the summer.”

Hutchins and her husband, Norman, the head of the church, are paying for the program. She said it will cost an estimated $15,000 to pay for the staff and buy supplies.