Tag: stars mentoring project

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 Was There

She stormed out of the school’s lunchroom, her face scrunched up with hurt and anger, marching to the bench in the hallway and pulling the hood of her jacket close around her head. I wasn’t used to seeing Amy like this. The din of the lunchroom surged on, with the talking, shouting and laughing of dozens of kids all mingling together in a dull roar. But Amy couldn’t be a part of it that day- something had hurt her too much. As she huddled on the bench, struggling to hold together a brave face against the world, I didn’t know what exactly had happened or what exactly to do.

But I was there.

And not only was I there, but I knew her- I had seen her week after week, not just this year but last year too. I knew that she was funny, outgoing, sweet but sometimes sassy, sometimes so wild she’d get in trouble but also a smart kid who was making real improvement in her reading. Because I was there, and because I knew her, I was able to stop and enter into that moment with her.

“What happened?”, I asked. No response.

“Did someone say something to you?” She gave the slightest, almost imperceptible nod. I could tell what the nod meant without knowing the specific words that were said to her.

“Listen, Amy- they don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t listen to them.”

As I said that, I saw a tear start to run down her cheek, her brave face starting to break.

“They don’t know what they’re talking about, but I do. I know you- you are sweet, you are smart, you’re funny and you are fun to be around. People like you and you’re special. That’s who you are. Don’t worry about what anyone else has said- that’s who you are. Okay?”

She nodded again, this time stronger, the pain still there but with a different voice now in her head to fight against it. And then the moment was done- I patted her on the shoulder and walked back into the cafeteria, moving on to check on our different volunteers and their groups of kids that were meeting that day.

So often we wait for the big encounters that change someone’s whole life in an instant. And those moments are amazing!

But many lives are not changed as much by one big encounter as by the overwhelming momentum of small acts of love and compassion over time.

This is what Antioch volunteers are doing through the STARS Mentoring Project– being there in the lives of kids in our community, loving and supporting them where they need it. Every week I see our mentors bringing encouragement to kids who are being bullied, who are struggling with reading, who have tough home lives or who just need someone to say they have what it takes.

Jesus, in Matthew 5:16, tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Because of the simple fact that more than a hundred of us are there, entering in to kids’ worlds week after week, we are getting the chance to bring encouragement and hope to those who need it. Through our small acts of love and consistency, our light is shining, and it is getting brighter by the day.

IN RESPONSE:

If you are interested in getting involved in STARS, join us for our Smooth Stone event on Thursday, September 8th in the Elementary Auditorium. There will be refreshments and an opportunity to hear about how STARS is impacting our city and how you can be a part. Find more information and register here.

By Michael Jeter, STARS Mentoring Project Assistant Director

 

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