In 2012 a special partnership was built in an underserved and overlooked neighborhood in Lakewood, Colorado. Lakewood Church of Christ was built in 1973, the same year that Foothills Elementary School started just 2 blocks away. Over time the neighborhood filled in with over 1100 homes and 4,000 apartments. The apartments became a haven for folks who were less financially secure and their neighbors in homes gradually detached from them and the school.
In 2012 Lakewood Church of Christ started a tutoring program at Foothills called “Whiz Kids” and it immediately yielded positive results. Tutors meet weekly with a student and support teacher advised goals and the investment has been life transforming for 100’s of students since then! But a vital part of the Whiz Kids positive impact doesn’t actually occur in the school! This special event takes place during one night every year up the hill at the church!
The Whiz Kid Christmas Party is held yearly at Lakewood Church of Christ and includes a great meal, entertainment, gifts and a special kind of table conversation that’s a game-changer for students and families. During the meal tutors share success stories, list specific accomplishments and celebrate student achievements. You might overlook the importance of this at first…but underserved families are woefully under-equipped to facilitate this is a kind of conversation. They need actionable examples to imitate in order to be affirming to their kids.
Social/Emotional development research tells us that it takes 6 positive statements to outweigh the impact of 1 negative one. This is exaggerated when you factor in an elementary aged student who is trying to find their way in life through the personal-worth minefield. It’s actually not hard to help someone learn to read or do math…but equipping an 8 year old with the tools they need to grow up loving themselves and feeling worthy is more important than we could possibly explain in this simple blog post!
Imagine sitting at that Christmas dinner table with a single mom, her mom or another relative and then her 3 kids. The tutor initiates conversation and then points out some of the achievements of the Whiz Kid and tells stories illustrating how that student is progressing and growing. The tutor deflects any off hand or inappropriate responses from the adults and models over-and-over how to affirm, pursue and bless children.
It’s astounding how simple yet profound this exercise is…yet over the years this one meal and hour of conversation has been more transformative for students and their families than almost anything else we do under the guise of “tutoring” and serving kids in the neighborhood.
Volunteers + Tutoring = Healthier Families! It’s a simple equation that involves stepping up to be available to serve through relationship in the communities where we live.