BROCKTON- Messiah Baptist Church is teaming up with the Stonehill College Education
Department to help students put academics first.
For the past 20 years, Messiah Baptist has offered a tutoring program for the members of
the church and the surrounding Brockton community. The Academic Club for Kids teamed up
with the Education Department at Stonehill College to provide educational tutoring for students
in the Brockton area.
The program director, Cathy McNeal, said the program used to be a combination of academic assistance and social time. However, over the years the program has gained a stronger emphasis on academic support. After teaming up with the Stonehill, the program has become much more successful.
The program runs on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 until 10 and on Thursday evening from 4:50 to 6:25. The program is held at the church on Legion Parkway in Brockton.
Anyone from the community is welcome to join. Currently, the ages of students range from 8 to 18.
“Through participation in the program, area students are getting invaluable tutoring at no financial cost; just their dedicated time,” said McNeal.
Due to the limited numbers of tutors and high demand of help, there is currently a waiting list of four students.
There are now nine students and six tutors on Wednesdays and 10 students and four tutors on Thursday. McNeal said she was hoping to double the numbers of tutors this school year. Students are allowed to attend only one tutoring session per week.
Stonehill senior Frank Patarino has been working with the program for four years. Patarino, who covers all subjects with students from second through 12th grade, said he enjoys helping the students the most with history homework.
“I have seen a lot of dedicated tutors over the years who want to make a difference, and Messiah Baptist Church has been so welcoming and kind for inviting us into their home,” Patarino said.
In 2000, Stonehill secured grants from Verizon to buy supplies, build a computer lab in 2002, hold end of the year celebrations and provide campus visits for students.
“The campus visits give a lot of encouragements to high schoolers who are curious about college,” Patarino said.
Elise Cavanaugh, a sophomore at Stonehill, said she first got involved with the program to fulfill a class requirement. Cavanaugh enjoyed the program so much she stayed involved with it.
Cavanaugh has worked one-on-one with the same student for a year and a half. While they focus primarily on homework, they also find time to visit the church library.
“We pick out a book and read aloud together. We continue reading the book every week until we finish it, then we pick out another one,” said Cavanaugh.
When the grant money eventually ran out, church volunteers stepped in. Messiah Baptist continued to provide available space and Internet access but no money.
This year, the church announced that it is close to securing a grant through the Boston Baptist Association. This will allow the program to buy supplies, technology upgrades, snacks and end of term celebrations.
This type of academic assistance wouldn’t be available to these students if it weren’t for the church, McNeal said.
She said parents have told them they’ve seen students' grades improve and seen them pay more attention to schoolwork. In some cases students even brought in report cards to share with the tutors, McNeal said.
“I think the program helps make a college education seem closer and more accessible than students realize,” Cavanaugh said. "My first college visit was my junior year of high school, so this early exposure to such an experience may hopefully make college a more tangible object of the future for these students.”
McNeal said she believes the tutoring program also helps to emphasize the role of the church in the community.
“It’s a tight-knit group who assist the program and are inspired to serve members of their church and outside it as well," Patarino said.
“I have seen firsthand how leaders that are active members in the church play an important role in the lives of these students,” Patarino said.
Photo courtesy of Messiah Baptist Church