Education feature: Hope center provides faith-based tutoring

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Whiz Kids tutor Tami Daale helps a student with reading during a group’s weekly tutoring session at Central Baptist Church. Whiz Kids provides one-on-one tutoring and mentoring at four elementary schools in Clovis.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Steve Reshetar saw the results.

He knew it helped. He knew it would work. When he moved from Denver to Clovis, he decided to bring Whiz Kids with him.

Whiz Kids is a faith-based one-on-one tutoring and mentoring program focusing on literacy and working with kids who are struggling in school, Reshetar said.

And it’s free.

Reshetar worked with the Whiz Kids program in Denver, which started 18 years ago.

“That’s when I saw how effective it is, how fun it is, and how much it helps students,” he said. “I decided I wanted to institute it down here.”

In Whiz Kids, students are tutored for an hour a week at a church close to their school, Reshetar said.

The program began in October and works with four elementary schools. Cameo elementary students are tutored at 21st Street Church of Christ, Highland students at Kingswood United Methodist Church, Zia and Mesa students at Central Baptist Church.

Reshetar, the executive director of the Matt 25 Hope Center, runs the program and pays for fees through the center.

Tutors for the program go through an application process, background checks, training and are approved by their pastor.

Reshetar said he is hoping to expand the program to service all elementary schools in the district.

“There are always kids in every school that could use the help,” he said.

Each school identifies students who are struggling and permission to participate in Whiz Kids is secured by the parents. Tutors pick up their student from home in pairs, to avoid travel concerns, and tutor them for an hour at their church site.

A liaison from the school is present at the site during the tutoring to help the tutor and to give directions from teachers if a child needs help with a specific subject. Reshetar said 20 minutes of the tutoring time is spent on reading because “reading is paramount to all learning.”

Afterwards, the students can participate in 30 minutes of club time which involves a game, Bible lesson and a snack. Reshetar said students don’t have to participate in club time to participate in the tutoring program.

“The program makes a huge difference,” Reshetar said. “The biggest difference it makes for the students is knowing there is another adult that cares about them and the fact that it’s one-on-one. A couple hours a week can really change a life.”

Selena Strebeck, the site coordinator for Kingswood United Methodist Church, shadowed organizers in the Denver program when she and Reshetar started the program in May.

“I loved all of it,” she said. “With the one-on-one attention they have that connection with an adult every week. We see their school work go from a struggle to something they can handle. They learn they can get help.”

Strebeck said she experienced the tutor and student relationship first hand. Recently, a tutor was absent and Strebeck got to step in. By the end of one session, the student reached for her hand when it was time to go.

“It’s amazing how fast the student and tutor bond,”