By Renelda Owen, Meridian District Contributor
Meridian, Miss—Central United Methodist Church volunteers have been going to tutor Carver Middle School students every week in the Study Buddy Program, which is the only partnership between a public school and a church or community organization in the Meridian Public School District.
Central purchased hundreds of books for the Carver library and classrooms, led book studies and brought meals to teachers in appreciation of their efforts. Under the leadership of Central volunteer, Julia Green, 25 Central members spend 45 minutes each week tutoring students at Carver. After the first year of this partnership, Carver Middle School principal, Tiffany Platt came to a Central Sunday morning worship service to thank volunteers for their involvement and to make them aware of the difference they’ve made. According to Platt, the influence of adults who are willing to build a constant, stable relationship with these students and show them that they care has been a tremendous help.
Platt shared that in the year before the Central/Carver partnership, students at Carver only earned 2,400 points for reading in the school’s Accelerated Reader program, where students read books from an approved list and then take tests on the books. In the year since Central partnered with Carver, students have earned 24,000 points in the same program. Children have checked out 12,000 books this year, and many of the books were donated by Central. For the first time in years, the school met its language arts objectives for the school year.
Platt further reported that discipline has greatly improved since Central’s involvement. Disciplinary referrals decreased 70 percent. The number of students placed in out-of-school settings because of disciplinary reasons fell to 3.7 percent, making Carver the only school in the Meridian Public School District below the national average of 5 percent. Platt thanked Central for their involvement and encouraged more members to be a part of the Study Buddy program.
Rev. Dr. Bob Rambo is senior pastor at Central and Rev. Owen Weddle is the associate pastor of missions and evangelism. Meridian district superintendent, Rev. Billy Owen has challenged churches to go out into their neighborhoods and be the hands and feet of Christ by finding ways to make a difference in their communities. If one church can have this much impact on one school, just imagine how schools across Mississippi could benefit if every school partnered with local churches that invest in the future of young people and their communities.