Making a Difference in the Lives of Memphis Elementary School Students

April 19, 2015

There is magic in this work, says Christy Yarbro, “head coach,” as she terms it, of the Team Read tutoring program at Shady Grove Elementary School, spearheaded by Church of the Holy Communion. For the past several months, she has volunteered her time recruiting, training and coordinating 50 coaches at Shady Grove, “and I need 20 more. I didn’t know there would be so many kids who need help.”

The kids are second-graders at a school in the heart of East Memphis, students who are ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, the vast majority of them eligible for free lunches, many of them homeless or displaced, some bussed in from where they live in hotels on I-40. Many of the families are among the “working poor,” says Christy. “A lot of them are English as second language.

“And they’re all precious. Most of them want to learn and have such a spark in them – that’s the magic.”

Volunteers, presently including a little more than a dozen parishioners and staff from Holy Communion, each spend an hour a week at the school, a half hour with each of two students. A tutoring session includes a reading lesson based on set vocabulary words and then a section of time that is up to the volunteer – it can be a learning game, or a lesson on the iPad, or something else that’s of interest to that student.

The tutoring makes a difference: second grade is a vital year for reading proficiency and a major indicator for high school graduation. Beyond the teaching, the tutor-student relationship can be transformative:

“They need, one, to be loved and understood and respected as human beings,” says Christy. “They need lots of loving, caring people who want to spend time with them.”

To get involved, contact Christy Yarbro, christyyarbro [at] yahoo [dot] com or by phone, 218-4499.

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