Afterschool Literacy Program: A Beacon of Hope

On Sept. 15, 2014, St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church launched an Afterschool Literacy Program.  The Rev. John Heinemeier, Vicar at Cyprian’s, envisioned a program that would target families of students identified as struggling readers.  With the assistance of the Literacy Advisory Board and the parishioners of St. Cyprian’s, the vision became a reality.

Enrolled students receive 45 minutes of individual tutoring each day.  Tutors were trained in the Augustine Literacy Project, which is a multi-sensory, phonetic approach to reading instruction.  Tutors planned lessons utilizing structured language instruction (Orton-Gillingham approach) as well as Wilson materials.

The program was fortunate in securing the majority of its tutors through the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc.   NCBA provides services to seniors who are some of the nation’s most valuable, untapped resources.

As NCBA so eloquently states, “They represent many years of wisdom, knowledge, and talent who are now being put to use to deliver vital service in many communities throughout the nation.”  Mr. Larry Thomas, Ms. Patrice Dunn, and Ms. Marva Davenport served as volunteer tutors.  Mr. Awad Ayesh, Mrs. Kerry Gomez, Ms. Jerilene Green, Ms. Beverly…..recently attended the graduation service where students and staff concluded the year with student recognition and demonstrations of some of their activities.  I’m glad to see this kind of work being done in the community to help students.  I’m most proud of the work that these students have done and to see how they’ve progressed academically.  Hats off to St. Cyprian’s!”

According to assessment data, students enrolled in the program demonstrated exceptional academic growth.  Ms. Danita Branch, the parent of an enrolled student, states, “the Literacy Program at St. Cyprian’s is really the heart of the community.  The Director and staff gave their time, heart, and commitment to the students who attended the program.  They were willing to stand behind every one of the students.  Mrs. Brenda Lloyd, the Director, went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure they were successful.  My son was below grade level and by the Grace of God and the Literacy Program, he went from 60% to 90%.  Thank you St. Cyprian’s!”

Ms. Cassandra Bingham was happy to share the following:  “The St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church After-school Literacy Program has been a true blessing to my grandson and our family.  Getting my grandson to read was a nightmare and all of our best efforts ended in frustration and tears.  In a matter of two weeks, after beginning the program, we were able to see a change in my grandson.  His confidence level improved, he began to try, and wanted to learn.  As a result, his grades greatly improved.  He was eager to read road signs, billboards, store signs, and signs on trucks.  For anyone who has a child who struggles in reading, you will understand that this was a major accomplishment.  By the end of the school year, he scored ‘proficient in reading.’  Our family is grateful for St. Cyprian’s After-school Literacy Program.  We thank and praise God for the Staff at Cyprian’s for their caring, expertise, and knowledge.”

Ms. Linda Griffin, another parent also applauded the program.  “Your after-school program has been a blessing to my granddaughter.  Thank you for the dedication the staff took in the education of young children.  My granddaughter’s grades drastically improved.  Most importantly, the skills she learned in your program improved her self-confidence.  The one-on-one attention she received is greatly appreciated.  It was reassuring to know that she was in a safe, caring, and supportive environment with the benefit of a wholesome afternoon meal.  I hope that more people will take advantage of your program.”

At its first Recognition Banquet on May 27, the Literacy Program and its Advisory Board decided to name the Center in honor of its founder, the Rev. John Heinemeier.  St. Cyprian’s says that the church is truly grateful for the support of the Granville County Community Foundation, the Oxford Rotary Club, the Episcopal Diocese of the North Carolina, Holy Family Episcopal Church, St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, parishioners, and all others who contributed to the program.

The staff of the program will be in training throughout the summer in preparation for the 2015-2016 school year.  They await, with excitement, enthusiasm, and gratitude to hear next year’s enrollees shout, “Yes! Yes! I can read!”

**This article originally appeared in the Oxford Public Ledger**

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