Churches getting involved in schools

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 23, 1998

By DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / November 23, 1998

RESERVE – A fledgling program aimed at getting St. John the BaptistParish churches involved in the public school system is gaining momentum.

St. John Parish School Board member Russ Wise introduced the Adopt-a-School program to 18 pastors and priests attending a Prayer Breakfast dedicated to education in September.

“I asked every church in St. John Parish to adopt a school,” Wise said. “Iasked the pastors and priests to look around and pick a school, contact the principal, and find out what they can do to help.”So far, Wise said, 10 area churches have either adopted a school or talked with schools about how church members can interact with students in a meaningful way.

“Until about 30 years ago, the two pillars of almost every community or neighborhood in America were the church and the school,” Wise said.

“Now we have a disassociated community where people cocoon; they go from work to home; no sense of community.”Wise believes public education is suffering because of the misconception among many people that our schools are ineffective if not dangerous.

“For all intents and purposes, our community stops at the schoolhouse door,” Wise said. “People have a lot of misunderstanding about our publicschool system. They may hear or read about a fight at a school or guns onschool property. People get the idea that our schools are asylums wherethe inmates are in control.”Wise said it occurred to him that both schools and churches could benefit if they got together. He said students benefit by having caring adultsinteracting with them on a regular basis while volunteers will come away with an awareness of how well our public school system is educating students.

Wise said three volunteers from the Woodland Baptist Church near the Glade School have signed up to work twice a month as part of a mentoring program called Project HYPE.

Also on the burner is a proposed program for church members to provide afterschool care for latchkey children at either the school or the church.

Woodland would also like to institute a program that would allow church volunteers to adopt a teacher at Glade School, Wise said.

Plans are now being implemented to have those programs in full swing by the beginning of 1999.

West St. John Elementary School recently held an education summit withsix area pastors in attendance. Those churches are setting up awardsprograms for children in their congregations who attend West St. JohnElementary.

Four churches have agreed to sign on as volunteers at Fifth Ward Elementary, Wise added. Those churches are New Wine ChristianFellowship, Greater New Plymouth Rock Baptist, Church of God in Christ and Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

School officials at Fifth Ward are meeting on a weekly basis with the pastors of those churches to set up a mentoring program where volunteers would interact with students on a daily basis.

New Wine Christian Fellowship Church is in the talking stage with East St.

John High and LaPlace Elementary, as well. New Wine has donated schoolsupplies to be given to needy students in those schools.

The Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School has been adopted bythe LaPlace Church of Christ and St. John the Baptist Church. Volunteersfrom those churches have agreed to tutor and counsel students.

While Wise is pleased with the progress of the church/school programs so far, he said he would like much more involvement. He plans to sendanother letter to the approximately three dozen churches in St. JohnParish, hoping to get each of them to make an ongoing commitment to a school within the next six months.

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