Rev. Clay Horton has learned a lot from the elementary kids he mentors each week. Read his story.
1.5 Miles = 10 Light Years
For the past three school years, I've volunteered on nearly a weekly basis at Hedrick Elementary. To be honest with you, if I were a teacher, I would not teach elementary school. It would be my last choice of all the schools. God bless elementary school teachers, but I just know that job would not be for me. Despite my feelings about not wanting to be an elementary school teacher, this is the only place that I volunteer weekly. It's crucial that I am there, mentoring a student week after week. It's important for the child, for the teachers, and for me.
To begin with, I am grateful for our public schools. I often take for granted that any child in the United States has the opportunity to receive a free education. This is not the case for many children around the world. (Go ahead, say a quick prayer of thanksgiving to God for a blessing we too often ignore). Any child, regardless of income, can go to school. Hedrick is a Title I school and most of their kids are on free or reduced lunch. In other countries, their families might not be able to afford uniforms or extra schooling, but every child at Hedrick is welcome to learn.
That being said, the challenges that the children face at Hedrick are drastically different than the challenges my own elementary school children face each day. I live 1.5 miles from Hedrick and yet their world and my world feel 10 light years apart.
The parent support at my children's school feels about 100% greater than at Hedrick. This is not because Hedrick parents don't care. They do care greatly. But the jobs of the parents at my children's school are often flexible and there are a number of parents who are stay-at-home parents. Hedrick parents work jobs that pay less and often require longer hours. Their schedules aren't flexible, and they don't have vacation days. They don't have money for special tutors or extracurricular activities. Some of the parents don't have the education to tutor their own kids. My children are isolated from that world and we are 1.5 miles from them.
At Hedrick, I've discovered that the teachers and administrators have to focus on the whole child- their home life, their clothes, their food, etc. All the basic needs must be met before they can teach a child to read. Meeting basic needs is not one of tasks that consume my own children's teachers and therefore they get to dive right into academics. Once again, it feels like the classrooms are miles apart, but in reality, 1.5 miles. Really. 1.5 miles.
I've found that volunteering at Hedrick helps reduce my own isolationism and connects me to a different world. In this world, I'm an extra support person in a child's life. I'm not the savior, but I am a support. In our weekly mentoring sessions, we read, play games, and build a relationship. The kids I've worked with will have to overcome many more obstacles than my own kids just to arrive at the same place. They need all the help and encouragement they can get. My children have a huge safety net if something somehow goes awry in their very stable world. Many of the children at Hedrick often don't have much of a safety net at all and their worlds are much more fragile.
Jesus cares about the children who come to school hungry. Jesus cares about the kids who must grow up quickly because their world doesn't have time or space for a carefree childhood. Jesus cares deeply for the kids who live so close to me and yet seem to live in a different world.
I also know that the members of Trietsch care deeply for these children as well. For the past three years, I have not been the only person from Trietsch volunteering. In fact, no matter what day of the week you head to Hedrick, there is a crew from Trietsch. There are former elementary school teachers who absolutely love working with elementary school children and they know how to do it well. There's also several us who would never choose to be an elementary school teacher. We don't really know what we are doing, but we know that there is a child waiting for us each week. So we show up, give high fives, ask about their school work and their families, and we simply build relationships. The director of the mentoring program tells us about the impact it makes in the children's lives. The teachers tell us about the progress the kids make because of us. The mentors later tell me about the impact it has on them, emotionally and spiritually.
God is at work at Hedrick, helping us all grow in some way or another. This year, I hope you'll join us as we mentor children at Hedrick. Whether you are an expert with kids or simply have a willing heart to put yourself in a new situation, we could use your help. I look forward to seeing you at Hedrick this year.
To get involved or learn more, email Laura Sennott at email@example.com.