City Gospel Mission’s Whiz Kids
In greater Cincinnati, over 1400 volunteers participate in the City Gospel Mission’sWhiz Kids tutoring program. Leaders at the public elementary schools they’re serving say the program is making a big difference.
At-risk Youth Become WHIZ Kids Who Succeed in School
Last year City Gospel Mission’s Whiz Kids initiative paired volunteer tutors, most of them from churches, with 1,239 at-risk students from 64 different schools. Volunteers are each matched with a single student in grades 1-3 with whom they meet weekly. The focus is on ensuring that kids can read by grade 4.
The program’s outcomes are impressive. At Mt. Washington School, for example, the CLC Resource Coordinator, Ilene Hayes, reports that “students who attended the Whiz Kids program increased their reading test scores by 55 points and math by 50 points.” At Lincoln Heights Elementary, the average gain among Whiz Kids in words read correctly per minute from fall to winter sessions was just over 24 words. At Union Elementary, in the Lakota School District of southwestern Ohio, Principal Benjamin Brown enthuses: “The impact that the Whiz Kids program has had on the children and families of Lakota over the years is very positive and powerful. …Our students grow in their reading abilities each year and Whiz Kids plays a vital role in helping make that happen.”
City Gospel Mission’s executive director Roger Howell cites a few programmatic elements as keys to Whiz Kids’ effectiveness. One is intentionally nurturing the passion and dedication of the tutors. “Put simply, we succeed because of the high level of passion and commitment of our tutors,” Howell says. City Gospel Mission encourages this by offering initiatives like Whiz Kids University, an in-depth, specialized training program for the tutors. They also sponsor an annual Kick Off event bringing over 100 Whiz Kids leaders from across greater Cincinnati for equipping, engaging, and empowering for the new school year. The program’s focus on young children is also deliberate, Howell adds. “They are cute and they are hungry for the affection and affirmation of a caring adult. They and their tutors bond.”
With equipping and guidance from City Gospel Mission, a local church or organization embraces a neighborhood public elementary school, develops relationships with school administrators and teachers, and provides trained and screened volunteer leaders and tutors to launch and maintain a tutoring site. Nearly 80 churches in the area are currently involved in Whiz Kids. Each one dedicates one leader, paid or unpaid, to coordinate the program and recruit the tutors. Typically the tutoring occurs at the school but in some instances it may be held at the church or a community center.