Church to Restart Tutoring Program for WEE Students

A Volunteer works with a WEE student. Contributed


A 20-year-old tutoring program for West End students will relaunch this September following a COVID-19 hiatus.

Tuesday Tutoring, a program primarily serving Hispanic families, was started by West End Presbyterian Church in 2002. It was the answer to a question generated by several prior mission trips to Mexico: “How can we continue to love and support this population when we go home?”

At its height, the program served 33 students with just as many volunteers. But the program closed along with the schools in 2020 because of the coronavirus. When Moore County Schools returned to a little more normalcy last spring, the church started a trial run. It welcomed back 10 children in grades K-5 and 10 tutors to finish out the 2021 school year.

“I hope this will be the first full year back and we can successfully have the program, meeting the children’s needs, without having to stop for Covid or any other reason,” said program coordinator Anna Stevens.

Stevens retired from her position as the ESL coordinator for Moore County Schools last year. Fluent in Spanish, she now works part-time with the school district as an interpreter for immigrant families. 

What the program needs most right now is tutors. But Stevens wants to be careful not to intimidate potential volunteers with the word “tutor.” “It’s primarily homework help and mentoring for young children who come from immigrant families,” she said.

As important as the learning component is, there is also the relational component.

“The tutor becomes a mentor to the child and they follow the child from grade to grade. It helps them socially as well as academically,” Stevens said.

When the bell rings at West End Elementary at 2:30 p.m. each Tuesday, the WEPC van is there to pick up the students and bring them to the Crawford building, where they are greeted with snacks and smiles. After some fun on the playground, the students sit one-on-one with their tutors, working on homework and basic skills. The tutors arrive at 2:30 p.m. and work with the students until 4 p.m.

The program supplies materials for children who don’t have homework, and a number of former teachers can provide guidance on what materials and skills the children might need.

“We’re also working closely with the classroom teachers. They know who the tutor is. So there is good communication between the classroom teachers and the tutors as far as the needs of the children,” she said.

Stevens hopes to serve at least 20 elementary-aged children this year and to slowly grow the program back. Students are invited to participate in the program based on teacher recommendations. There is currently a waiting list.

Many of the tutors are retired and come from different backgrounds, but the program is currently short on male tutors. Volunteers do not need to be affiliated with the church.

“You don’t have to have special training. We will give you guidance when you come,” said Stevens. “If you ever help a kid with homework, you know what it’s all about.”

Stevens acknowledges that the weekly commitment might make some people hesitant to sign up as a tutor. “But we have a list of substitutes. So for those who like to travel or have other things come up, we can accommodate those schedule adjustments.”

The commitment pays off, according to Stevens.

“It’s fun for the tutors and for the kids,” she said. “We look for fun activities. We’ve taken them on field trips. It’s a way to bring joy into these homes.”

This relational aspect sets this tutoring program apart. “The families are involved,” Stevens said. “When you work with a kid you can’t help but work with a parent. So it’s like really helping the entire family as we help the children.”

Because the program pairs the same student with the same tutor each year, the bonds are strong. “When you work with a kid for five years, you can’t help but know their siblings, know their parents and probably know more than the parents want you to know about their family. You know how kids love to share.”

A new program aimed at strengthening connections with parents was sponsored by WEPC this year through the Literary Council. Families with children from birth to age five were invited to participate in a Motheread class. For two hours once a week over 10 weeks, families brought children’s books based on a theme such as self-control or building self-esteem. While the children play with childcare providers, the parents are learning how to read the books and talk to the children about what they’re reading.

“It was a really joyfull learning experience,” said Stevens, who hopes to offer it again when tutoring begins in September. “It was also a wonderful parenting class. Based on the weekly themes, they would share with each other about what worked in their families.”

It was also life changing. One mother shared with Stevens how much her children dreaded reading at home, even calling it “punishment.” But after experiencing the program together, the children loved coming. The positive association between fun and reading made a difference. “She said, ‘It has just changed us all.’ They want to read,” said Stevens.
Stevens invites anyone interested in connecting with children and families by volunteering with the long-standing tutoring program to contact her at (910) 695-9300.

Contact Maggie Beamguard at