By Alyssa Martin, Staff Writer —
UTC’s Hope House partner’s with Renaissance Presbyterian Church for literacy program throughout the week to help low income elementary and middle school students stay off the streets and in school.
Renaissance Presbyterian Church, a mostly African American congregation of about 20 members, dedicated Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4-6pm to help students in the Westside community to not only achieve literary growth, but much more. This program was started many years ago by two local sisters in the church to help keep students off the streets and give them hope for a brighter future.
These nights are possible thanks to volunteers who come and read with elementary and middle school children; the children are also fed dinner and encouraged to take home extra snacks for the week.
The Hope House’s director Reverend Tricia Dillon Thomas said, “These students come [to the church] and these people who are from the church or just members of the community will come in and read to them and help them get their homework done, but also make sure they eat, which is huge.”
Reverend Thomas and her intern Adeola Ijiyode have been working alongside Renaissance Presbyterian to obtain more volunteers for these nights. According to Reverend Thomas, this past summer the church was uncertain if the program would be able to continue; fortunately the program is ongoing thanks to efforts from Adeola and other volunteers in the community to expand knowledge about the literacy program nights and an invitation to individuals to volunteer.
Although a great opportunity to expand literary competence, this program also allows children the opportunity to look forward to something special. For many students, they are only able to go to school and back home, and through this program, they are provided a safe and welcoming environment to grow and dream outside of his or her everyday routine.
Adeola, who’s passion has become volunteering with these children, stated, “It’s a means to keep the children safe, like off the streets, doing something productive, and literacy is very important for these particular children in the community.”
These afternoons are very important to Adeola but also to the children. She said some of the children often do not believe in themselves and will claim they are unable to read; however, if encouraged enough, they have the courage and motivation to try and practice to be better.
On other reasons of importance, Adeola also stated, “It’s just really important to me because a lot of these children are children of color and it’s just important for them to see people older than them that care about them and that they want them to succeed.”
This program has become important to the community and the students within it; it is giving them an opportunity to better understand school and themselves.
The church and community involved with the literacy program welcomes anybody who has a passion for children or a heart to serve. It takes place every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon from 4-6 pm at Renaissance Presbyterian Church located on Boynton Dr.