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Church mentors assist elementary students

It’s called the One Child, One Hour, One Church, One School model. Kids Hope USA offers churches and schools a proven, award-winning program that meets the emotional, social, and academic needs of at-risk schoolchildren. This mentoring program partners each participating church with one elementary school. The KHUSA church-sponsored member spends one hour each week with their “one and only child” at the school.

One Child: An at-risk elementary school student who needs a relationship with a caring adult

One Hour: Sixty critical minutes each week when a trained mentor befriends a child, and helps him or her acquire basic academic skills.

One Church: Takes ownership of a program with its neighborhood school and provides a trained mentor, and a behind-the-scenes prayer partner for each student.

One School: Welcomes this intervention to increase the study skills of at-risk students at no additional expense.

Sixteen churches in Springfield and one church in Xenia are listed on the Kids Hope USA web site as partners in this endeavor. They join 19 other Ohio churches, and approximately 850 churches across the nation that are providing volunteers for this program.

“Kids Hope is a really nice program; their volunteers serve in a lot of important roles. They mentor by reading to the students, helping them with schoolwork, and sometimes they organize fun events at the school,” said Kim Fish, communications/special projects consultant with the Springfield City School District.

Springfield area churches partnering with elementary schools are: Bethel Baptist Church with Park Layne in New Carlisle; Clifton Avenue Church of God with Lincoln; CrossPointe Community Church with Fulton; Donnels Creek Church of the Brethren with Northwestern; Fellowship Christian Church with Snowhill; First Assembly of God with Horace Mann; First Christian Church with Rolling Hills, and First Church of the Nazarene with Simon Kenton Elementary.

The Hillside Avenue Church of God in Springfield has 12 mentors that visit students at Warder Park-Wayne Elementary, a few blocks away. Local directors of the mentoring program are required to attend a one-day training session at the KHUSA national headquarters in Holland, Mich.

“For some of these children, it’s inconceivable that someone is coming to their school just to see them. The mentor knows their name, and knows their family,” said Roy Schmunk, director of the KHUSA program at Hillside. “Some of those students attend our free meals on Wednesday evenings and the Bible school program after dinner. It’s been an excellent way for us to connect the school with the church.”

Other participants are: Heritage Fellowship Church with Donnelsville; High Street United Methodist Church with Lagonda; Maiden Lane Church of God with Snyder Park; Risen Christ Lutheran/RiverSong Church with Possum Elementary; Southgate Baptist Church with Perrin Woods; Vineyard Church of Northridge with Northridge Elementary.

According to Fish, student safety is the Springfield School District’s number one priority. Each KHUSA mentor is carefully screened using an application process that includes a personal history check, an interview and pastor approval. They are then trained by the program director, who uses comprehensive study materials from the KHUSA national office. They also must attend an orientation session at the school.

“At first, I was apprehensive going into this program because I didn’t know if I could relate to a child at that age,” said Springfield resident and Hillside mentor Bob Barker. “But it’s been a real blessing for me as I look back over five years of involvement. I hope I’ve made some difference in their lives.”

The Xenia partner is the First Church of Christ at 441 Ledbetter Road. The church has volunteers who mentor students at Simon Kenton Elementary School.

Statistics show that one in three children in America is a year or more behind in school. Students who can’t read at their grade level are dramatically less likely to succeed. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, every day 2,467 high school students drop out, 2,483 babies are born into poverty, and 3,477 children are arrested. Also millions of children are not having their emotional needs met, which puts them at risk. This mentoring program works to help address these problems.

“We are committed to our elementary schools being neighborhood schools. It’s great to see the community as a whole and also the faith community, supporting our shared mission of raising student achievement,” Fish said. “It’s a team effort, and way too important for one entity to achieve on its own.”

KHUSA has developed three “One-on-One” DVDs. Season 1 answers these questions: What makes a relationship great? What’s it like to be a kid today? How do mentoring relationships change? What are the five secrets of being a great mentor? Season 2 contains information on these topics: no child is perfect, ten creative ideas, communicating with kids, and five critical areas to make the partnership work. Season 3 is all about: first meeting, keeping the communication going, behavior, and strengths. Each season is $24.95 and can be ordered online at

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