Local ministry needs after-school tutors

Published 11:02 pm Thursday, September 4, 2008

The director of a church-based tutoring ministry says he needs more volunteers who are willing to help Chilton County’s students.

And he has at least 45 reasons for concern.

“Last year in Chilton County there were 45 students who dropped out of high school,” said Gary Smitherman, director of EMBRACE tutoring ministry and member of Liberty Hill Baptist Church.

“Did you know that a student whose family earns less than $30,000 a year is six times more likely to drop out of high school than a student whose family earns more than $30,000 a year?” he asks anyone who will listen. “These are the students we would like to help.”

EMBRACE, an acronym for Education Made Basic Reading Arithmetic Christ Eternity, assists students who are having difficulty with basic learning skills, such as reading and arithmetic. They also help with homework and encourage the development of good study habits.

“This is not all we help them with,” Smitherman adds. “This is a ministry, and what decisions they make about Christ will determine where they spend eternity.”

While most people’s concept of a mission trip is to spend months in a foreign country or distant region, Smitherman believes he has been called to a mission in his back door – Chilton County’s schools.

“This is a mission that could be so close to home, you could be tutoring your next door neighbor’s child,” he said.

This past year, EMBRACE tutored 15 students. There are six public schools in the county, and right now they are trying to meet the needs of just one.

“We would love to extend the ministry through helping all the way through high school, even exit exams,” Smitherman said. “We would like to add English as a Second Language and adult reading and writing.”

There are requirements to become an EMBRACE tutor. You must be a Christian and have been a member of a local church for six months. Prospective tutors also must submit to a fingerprint and background check.

Those who are selected as tutors are given a training manual and are trained through the North American Mission Board for 16 hours.

Smitherman urges people to consider.

“We are losing children in our society because we wait to react to offer the help that is much needed in this community,” he said.

EMBRACE is located at 911 Seventh St. S., Clanton. Tutoring is offered Monday through Thursday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at no cost to parents or students.

For more information, call 755-7778.

–Scott Mims can be reached at scott.mims@clantonadvertiser.com.