Whiz Kids Zoom
A Learning Process
Whiz Kids is all about changing the world by preparing students to succeed in school and develop the power to hope. And this year, the program had to change itself to continue it's mission. This has not been easy. Was tutoring and mentoring possible with a weekly physical absence? The answer is yes.
Whiz Kids is a one-to-one volunteer literacy tutoring and faith-based mentorship effort and is a program of City Care, an Oklahoma nonprofit. There are programs located across the city, involving hundreds of volunteers and students. Chapel Hill has been part of Whiz Kids for well over a decade. For years, every Tuesday afternoon, children and tutors huddled all over the church reading. Beth Hammack is the site coordinator for the Chapel Hill site tutoring students from Quail Creek Elementary. Our volunteers also tutor students from Kaiser Elementary at another church on Thursdays. Jennie Penner, from Chapel Hill, is the site coordinator for that location.
Both programs took a break during Spring 2020 as the pandemic began. But in the fall there was the question of whether to try and continue the program on Zoom. Beth said she was concerned about the complexity of the online process, but they had 6 students ready for tutors so they "tip-toed" in to zoom tutoring in Fall of 2020 and have continued into the spring semester. "I cannot say enough good things about the tutors who have stepped into this process," said Beth. "It is not ideal because the kids have been on computer learning all day and we miss the club time having our snacks and being together." However, she continued, "The kids are reading, and they are learning Bible verses and the Lord's prayer."
The Kaiser site, coordinated by Jennie Penner began tutoring through Zoom in January. "The break felt good, but Whiz Kids and the minister attached to the Kaiser site, Dwight Cunkle couldn't wait for us to get going." Jennie said there are some clunky parts to work through when it is all on the computer. "We were all hesitant at first, but it is working." Jennie's group includes 15 tutors and 15 students.
Building relationships has continued to play an important role. Even with COVID, Beth has been able to drop books and "little things" like crayons and sketchpads to the students and their families once a month. At Christmas, with the help of one of the student's mother, a Christmas giving program was organized for children in an apartment complex. "We are so lucky to be able to know the kids and their families like this," Beth said.
"I am impressed with the attendance and the ease of working virtually with our Whiz Kids. I was skeptical and now see that it is a great opportunity to meet with our students," Jennie said. "It has been wonderful to see our students and tutors and continue our relationships and make new ones." One of the tutors has made yard signs that say Whiz Kid Star of the Week so that tutors can still recognize students who are working extra hard.
Neither program is actively recruiting tutors at this time. However, Jennie said that if anyone has an interest in serving as an online tutor or sub to let her know. "Fifteen is a lot to handle, but we might be able to help one or two more." Beth and Jennie are both eager for students and tutors to be able to meet in person. "I think a lot of people will want to jump back in next fall," Beth said.