Sum­mer en­rich­ment

Beth­le­hem Bap­tist Church's an­nual pro­gram as­sists stu­dents

The Covington News - - Front page - By Sabas­tian Wee swee@cov­news.com

For nearly 30 years, Beth­le­hem Bap­tist Church’s Youth Sum­mer Feed­ing and En­rich­ment Pro­gram has pro­vided New­ton County chil­dren with valu­able so­cial and ed­u­ca­tional skills.

This year, the four-week pro­gram has seen an up­swing in par­tic­i­pants as it con­tin­ues its tra­di­tion in help­ing stu­dents en­rich them­selves dur­ing the dog days of sum­mer, with daily at­ten­dance rang­ing from 95 to 124 chil­dren.

Reg­is­trar Deb­o­rah Belcher-Jenk­ins ex­pects the at­ten­dance num­bers to rise up to 200 be­fore the pro­gram is over.

“We see them come in all ages and learn­ing ca­pac­i­ties, and we can work with that be­cause we do have teach­ers in each area,” she said.

The pro­gram’s suc­cess can be at­trib­uted to its long ros­ter of ded­i­cated vol­un­teers and or­ga­niz­ers, many of whom have been with the pro­gram since its be­gin­ning. Teach­ers like Pamela An­der­son, Tar­sha Thomas and Doris Ben­ton bring di­verse back­grounds and broad ex­pe­ri­ence to the pro­gram, work­ing with dif­fer­ent age groups and chil­dren with spe­cial needs.

“The (pro­gram) is like a good-tast­ing pie; it takes all the in­gre­di­ents to make it good,” said Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor El­iz­a­beth Par­tridge-God­frey. “All of the lead­ers work to­gether for the youth to make them bet­ter in­di­vid­u­als and pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens.”

Di­rec­tor Ge­nae Martin, with her back­ground as a New­ton County teacher,

in­tro­duced a CRCT-based cur­ricu­lum last year. She also gave teach­ers a free hand to en­gage the stu­dents in an as­sort­ment of ac­tiv­i­ties like word games, arts and crafts and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion to help strengthen their abil­i­ties in math, read­ing and lan­guage arts. They are also al­lowed to in­cor­po­rate Bi­ble stud­ies as well, since some of these chil­dren may not have the proper church ex­po­sure.

“We have a lot more in­volve­ment from our teach­ers,” said Martin. “Dur­ing the sum­mer, these kids want to have some fun … so the teach­ers can tweak and mod­ify the cur­ricu­lum as they see fit.”

Start­ing at 10 a.m. ev­ery day, stu­dents first en­gage in a prayer ser­vice, singing hymns, and are pre­sented with the rules and con­duct. They are di­vided by the ap­pro­pri­ate age groups and taken to dif­fer­ent ar­eas to be­gin their ac­tiv­i­ties of the day. Hot lunches are served at noon, and they are given a fi­nal ac­tiv­ity be­fore go­ing home at 1 p.m.

“A lot of these chil­dren may not get a hot meal while their par­ents are away at work,” said Dru­cilla Su­ratt. “When they come here, they know they are get­ting a hot meal.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pas­tor Hezekiah Ben­ton, Jr., the church started the pro­gram as a sug­ges­tion from one of its mem­bers who wanted stu­dents to have some­thing to do dur­ing the sum­mer, to pro­vide in­struc­tional cour­ses and “to keep them out of trou­ble.” The pro­gram was ap­proved by the con­gre­ga­tion and soon found sup­port from cor­po­rate en­ti­ties such as Snap­ping Shoals EMC.

The pro­gram is geared pri­mar­ily to ages 4 to 12, but many of the older stu­dents who have grad­u­ated from the pro­gram re­turn year af­ter year to vol­un­teer as helpers, a tes­ti­mony to the im­pact of the pro­gram.

“We are los­ing a lot of our youth to the streets,” said Wil­bert Hill, who works with the older chil­dren. “A lot of them join gangs to be some­body. We let them know, “you are some­body.” We let these chil­dren speak to us.”

The sum­mer feed­ing and en­rich­ment pro­gram runs through July 15. Par­ents un­able to bring their chil­dren to the pro­gram can sched­ule a pick-up with the church. Pick-ups be­gin at 8:30 a.m. For more in­for­ma­tion and to reg­is­ter, call (770) 7868229.

Sabas­tian Wee/the Cov­ing­ton News

Learn­ing all year 'round: Vol­un­teers at Beth­le­hem Bap­tist Church spend their sum­mers work­ing with lo­cal youths, teach­ing math, read­ing, lan­guage arts and Bi­ble study.

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