Mid-South tutoring volunteers gather to pray for students during educational uncertainty

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The uncertainty of what schools will face in the fall has a group of volunteers calling on a higher power.

At a time they would usually be preparing to tutor students, a group of Arise2Read volunteers gathered this week to pray for those same students. 

They prayed for education during a time of educational uncertainty. 

“We want to pray over our home,” prayer organizer Anna Whitney said. “We want to pray over our children, and we do want to pray over our schools, knowing one day they will be back in that building.”

The volunteers have been tutoring second-graders in the school system to read for years, but this year for the first time, they won’t see their students face-to-face due to the pandemic.

Students will have classes at home for now, and Arise2Read is also adjusting.

“We have had to find a way to create a platform that is virtual so our volunteers will have an opportunity to still deliver the Arise2Read program with children virtually until we are able to get back to school, face-to-face,’ executive director Karen Vogelsang said. “This is even more so critically important right now to be able to address the gaps that children have … to be able to help them be the best readers they can be.”

She said the virtual platform may attract even more volunteers who couldn’t participate the traditional way of going inside the school.

Five-year volunteer Greg Nelson said he will be back either way, ready to make sure students already struggling don’t get even further behind.

“We need to do whatever we can to reach these kids, and now with what’s going on and being the year 2020, technology is something we need to embrace,” Nelson said.

The idea is for prayer to go all over the city as schools all over face so much uncertainty.

Arise2Read founder Donna Gaines said the program will be back because it has to.

“What we have found is that children in poverty who are reading proficiently by the end of third grade have an 89% graduation rate, so literally their graduation from high school depends upon their literacy skills,” Gaines said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to be with the students.”

Arise2Read is an organization that funnels volunteers into the Team Read program, of which WREG is a sponsor.

Last school year, there were 1,265 reading volunteers serving 41 local schools.

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