Tag: stars

Volunteer Spotlight –
Kaye Lewis

Kaye Lewis is originally from Oklahoma, and moved to Waco in 2012 to be closer to family. She leads a Lifegroup in the Women’s Ministry and has been serving with STARS Book Clubs for the past six years.

FIND OUT WHY KAYE ENJOYS BEING A PART OF STARS MENTORING PROJECT: 

Why did you decide to volunteer with STARS?

I have always loved reading. I once read that if you learn to love reading, you will never be lonely, and I have found that to be true in my own life. When I heard what was happening in the kids at Provident Heights through STARS, I knew I wanted to be a part.

What is your favorite part about serving?

I enjoy being a Book Club Mentor because I know these kids will be successful in life if they learn to read. It is such a joy getting to know them, sharing fun stories with them and seeing them use their imagination as they improve in their reading.

Do you have a testimony to share from your time serving?

I have been serving since 2013, and it is always great to develop relationships that extend beyond our 30-minutes a week. I love seeing the kids while I am out and about in Waco. I also still keep up with a girl who is now 15 and used to be in one of my groups.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Thirty minutes once or twice a week is time well spent with these kids, I promise!

If you are interested in being a Book Club Mentor this fall, we would love for you to join us! To apply, go here. If you have any questions, please contact Kenneth McAdam

Impacting our City – STARS Mentoring Project

Antioch_STARS Mentoring

The STARS Mentoring Project exists to mobilize the Church to step in and support the kids, families and schools of our community. STARS has helped hundreds of kids not only improve their reading and develop a love of reading, but also grow emotionally and socially. Throughout the last five years we’ve done Book Clubs in our two neighborhood schools, and they have been two of the three most improved in their reading standards passing rates in Waco ISD!*

This year, three elementary schools and two middle schools in Waco ISD are in a crisis, facing potential closure if they don’t pass state standards this spring.

WE BELIEVE THAT LOVING OUR NEIGHBORS MEANS STEPPING IN TO SUPPORT THEM WHERE THEY HAVE A NEED.

As a church, we have asked the schools what we could do to help their students improve this year. We delivered 1,300 books and reading incentives to these campuses, and all three elementary schools welcomed the idea of Book Clubs.

We then asked at Antioch’s college service for more Book Club volunteers, and had 40 more people sign up. This means almost 100 more students would receive reading help and mentoring through STARS Book Clubs. On top of meeting the principal’s requests, we were also able to give every kid in our neighborhood the opportunity to be in Book Clubs if they wanted. But that’s only the start of the impact!

At one of the new schools, Brook Avenue Elementary, the staff and kids were on board with our mission from the first day. While setting up the first mentors at the school, one of the kids asked, “Is this gonna help me with my reading scores? Cause I really need it.” The boy was in fourth grade, and already worrying about his scores not being good enough.

The mentor replied, “Not only are we here to help with your reading scores, but we’re here to be with YOU.”

As the semester progressed, Book Clubs became more and more popular, with students asking daily how they could join a group. One week, when Book Clubs had to move to the playground, herds of children crowded around each group to try to be a part of them. Upon seeing the chaos, I had to create a one-man human fence around the groups to keep the other kids from being disruptive. Even in the library, kids started trying to sneak in to join groups…as if they wouldn’t be noticed in a group of three.

Soon teachers at the schools began commenting on improved performance from the kids involved and expressed gratitude to us week after week. Just two weeks ago, a teacher approached me and told me how thankful he was for our presence in the schools. He said three of his students who were in Book Club had recently made the three highest scores on their reading test, which they had never done before.

THROUGH THE SIMPLE “YES” OF EVERYONE FROM COLLEGE STUDENTS TO RETIREES WHO ARE VOLUNTEERING WITH STARS, WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO STEP IN ACROSS OUR CITY TO HELP THESE STUDENTS MAKE IT.

In this process, we have built relationships and trust with students, teachers and principals, as we’ve shown that we believe in them and want to serve and empower them to succeed. Our impact has the potential to grow monumentally in the years to come due to a foundation that has been created this semester.

Our community presented us a major crisis, and guess who is helping fill it…the people of God. Way to go church!

*based on “STAAR Reading Percent at Approaches Grade Level or Above” indexes on Texas Academic Performance Reports

By McKethan Parker – STARS Staff

I Make Kids Cry.

Sometimes part of my job is making kids cry.

No, it’s not in my job description, but it comes with the territory of managing STARS, Antioch’s mentoring program that matches volunteers from the church with kids in our neighborhood.  Last week, my victim was Jessie.

For the past few weeks, Jessie and David, two second-grade boys, had been meeting with their mentor (a stay-at-home mom) for STARS Book Club.  Once a week, they sit in the library over their thirty-minute lunch period and eat, talk and practice reading a book together.

“I’m sorry guys, but your mentor can’t come to book club today- her son is sick,” I told Jessie, as he chose between chicken nuggets and burritos in the cafeteria lunch line.

I didn’t really think it would be that big a deal if they missed a week- they only recently started book club, so I doubted they even remembered their mentor’s name.  However, as I saw Jessie’s face scrunch up as he tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears, it hit me again:

this is such a big deal for these kids.

Having someone who comes to the school every week just for you, who believes in you, who laughs with you, who encourages you that you can make it and that you’re a good reader- it’s something many of these kids rarely experience, and it matters so much to them.

But more than that, it’s something they desperately need.  Third-graders from low-income families who can’t read at grade level are eight times more likely never to graduate from high school.  If you stood on top of our new church building and looked out over our neighborhood, that assessment would be true for most of the kids in the houses you’d see.

But this is where we, the church, are stepping in and saying, “Enough!”  It’s where we are believing that God has more for these families than discouragement and failure, and where we’re putting our faith in action until we see that change happen.  And that change has started, with now one hundred and twenty-two volunteers from our church meeting with over three hundred kids every week.  It looks like that second-grader, Jessie, who is so impacted by his mentor that he cries when she can’t come.  Or Kaye, a retiree, whose girls jumped up an entire grade level in their reading after just four months, taking them out of that eight-times-more-likely-never-to-graduate category.  It looks like Carlos, who wrote to his mentor Sam, saying “You are like a big brother to me,” and the principal telling us the atmosphere at the school changed once we came in.

Some people think if you’re too spiritually minded you’re of no earthly good- yet we are seeing change in our community and our schools not in spite of our spiritual-mindedness, but because of it!  Because we have encountered God and know He has good things for us, we are full of hope for the lives of those around us.  Because we know that God is in the business of restoration, we seek restoration in every part of people’s lives.  Because we believe that nothing is impossible for God, we pray for our community, get involved in people’s lives, serve them, love them and expect great things to happen.

James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:18b).

Our deeds are not a replacement for our faith, but a result of it!  And I am full of hope for our community and our city, because day after day I see our people’s faith by their deeds, changing lives through their small, consistent acts of love (most of our mentors just meet with their kids for thirty minutes a week).  So yes, sometimes I have to bear bad news that will make kids cry- but I am so encouraged that we, the church, are giving them something that’s worth crying about.

Learn more about STARS and apply to be a mentor here.

STARS is funded by TDFPS through Communities in Schools in the Heart of Texas.

By Michael Jeter, Assistant Director of STARS

What Are You Doing For Lunch?

For years I believed mentoring meant you basically had to adopt a kid, take him on vacation and pay for his college tuition one day.

But I found out this past year that being a mentor through STARS Book Clubs was almost too easy.

I could be a mentor and make a legitimate impact on the life of a kid (actually three kids) in a mere 30 minutes a week. All I had to do was go to their school during lunch, meet the kids in the library, ask them how their week was, read a book together and tell them they were awesome. That’s it. 30 minutes, once a week.

And the boys I was mentoring have actually shown some remarkable improvement in their reading ability. After only a few months of being a part of the Book Club, they had improved an average of over one grade level. Imagine the impact of hundreds of kids having book club leaders spend 30 minutes a week with them. The results would be incredible.

We already have 80 mentors meeting with more than 200 students -but we need more mentors! The qualifications for being a mentor come down to this: “Can you read?” and “Do you have 30 minutes a week?”

Be a part of an incredible thing happening in our church and at Provident Heights Elementary School during lunch times. Sign up to be a STARS mentor today!

By Josh Lawson, Director of Community Engagement

Giving Back to the Community

We are so excited to have been able to provide backpacks and school supplies for every student at Provident Heights Elementary School!

Antioch is located in one of the poorest zip codes in Texas. Many kids in our neighborhood are struggling in school, which can be a barrier to getting out of generational poverty. One way Antioch is addressing this challenge is by supporting Waco Independent School District in practical ways. We want the administration, parents and students to know we’re behind them. Providing the more than 450 students with backpacks and school supplies was one of the most practical things we could do to help. Our hope is that students will know someone cares for and believes in them and that it will help the school year get off to a great start.

We also support WISD through the STARS Mentoring Project, which provides mentoring for local, at-risk third through fifth graders at Provident Heights and Waco Charter School. Antioch is a part of a larger, community-wide initiative with other churches to mobilize 1,000 mentors for students in the Waco Independent School District. Apply today to be a mentor!

Thank you to all of our volunteers who spent the day packing and delivering backpacks!

Simple Words

As a child, I grew up Catholic and would go to mass every Sunday with my family. I would hear a Gospel reading and two readings from the epistles (Paul’s letters to the churches). The stories I heard about Jesus fascinated me. I was always so intrigued by Him and the way he interacted with people and the miracles he did.

I remember as a little girl asking my mom, “Does Jesus still heal people the way He did in the Bible story?” She looked at me and said, “Yes, He still does that.” I think part of her just wanted to answer my questions so I wouldn’t ask as many, but I believed her. As I heard more stories of His miraculous power, the questioning ensued. “Does Jesus still ____ (fill the blank)? “ And always the same reply, “Yes, Jesus still does those things.” So I believed.

Around that time I heard my uncle got in a car accident. I didn’t know how bad it was, but over the coming weeks I could see the stress it was putting on my family. One day I walked in to my parents speaking in hushed tones. I asked my mom what was wrong, and she told me to pray for my aunt because she had some really hard decisions to make. My mom told me my uncle was on life-support, which she explained was keeping him alive. She told me he was in a coma, and they don’t know when or if he would ever recover.

I remember going into my room and thinking, “My mom said Jesus still heals, so maybe if I ask Him, he’ll heal my uncle.” The least I could do was ask. So I went into my room and started praying the way I was taught. All of the sudden I began crying, overwhelmed with the magnitude of what my family and aunt was facing. My prayers began to sound something like, “Jesus, my mom told me that you can still heal people. Since you still heal people, I was wondering if you could heal my uncle. I know you can do it because I heard the story of you doing something like it at church.”

And that’s when it happened… my little heart heard God for the first time. This indescribable peace enveloped me and I sensed God saying, “He’s going to be okay.” That’s when I opened my eyes and thought, “Whoa, I knew we could talk to you, but I never knew you could talk back.” I began to understand that Jesus wanted a relationship with me. He wasn’t some far-off, distant God I had to appease, but He wanted to talk to me, help me and be involved in my life. I was blown away by this! No one had ever told me this. I spent a good portion of the day outside talking to Him under a tree, thinking about God and all the stories I had heard about Him.

The next day my uncle was out of the coma and off every machine. That sparked a journey in my heart to find someone who really  knew this Jesus who spoke to me. I wanted someone to help me in my journey, for someone not to just give me cliché answers, but to show me how to walk with Him.

I am now the director of STARS, Antioch’s after-school mentoring program for inner-city kids in Waco. As I play with the kids and interact with them every day, I wonder, “Which of these kids is waiting for someone to show him or her how to walk with Jesus?” I know in this journey we all need encouragement, someone to show us how to navigate the complexities of life; the joys and the sorrows, however small or big they may be.

We all need people to stand beside us, fellow sojourners who may not know all the answers, but who are able to share God’s love.

I spend time with the kids and wonder, “How many of these little hearts are longing for something more?” I know my heart is still longing to know Him more, and I encounter Him every day. My life is forever impacted by the simple words my mom said; “Jesus still does those things.”  I am excited to see how simple words spoken by the people in our church body will change the trajectory of many more kids’ lives.

By Stephanie Ybarra, Director of STARS