DOBBINS HEIGHTS — Retired police officer June Gadsden and two students from Monroe Avenue Elementary School gathered Wednesday in a small computer room for their first tutoring session of the school year at New Bethel A.M.E Zion Church.
The program was supposed to have begun in September. But Hurricane Florence showed up, making the task of finding students and volunteers even more difficult.
Gadsen, wife of church pastor David Gadsden, didn’t give up.
On Wednesday, she was able to open the doors of the church to the first group of students.
“There’s a great need for tutoring,” Gadsden said. “When we mentioned it (at a community gathering earlier this year), we had a great response for children needing it.”
The program consists of approximately 45 minutes of tutoring with a snack at the beginning and arts and crafts toward the end.
Gadsden and her students read “The Tail of Emily Windsap” together, with each taking turns reading a few paragraphs.
Gadsden would ask them to point out words they had trouble pronouncing, and she’d ask questions to make sure they understood what they were reading.
“What does ‘unhealthy’ mean?” she quizzed.
“Chocolate,” responded a second-grader.
“Your mom must have taught you that one,” Gadsden said, laughing.
After reading a couple of pages into the book, Gadsden had both students make inferences, guessing what would happen to the main character.
“She’s turning into a mermaid,” shouted the second-grader.
“How’d you know she was turning into a mermaid?” Gadsden asked.
“If you can’t feel your hands or legs, you’re either numb or turning into a mermaid,” the children responded.
Gadsden participated tutoring programs as a police officer, helping at schools in Union County and Charlotte Mecklenburg, and volunteering at the YMCA.
She’s excited to start a program at the church and is thankful to Enviva for donating five computers.
“It went very well today,” Gadsden said later. “We’re going to do all that we can for the kids.”
Dobbins Heights resident Shian Chavis said the program couldn’t have appeared at a better time.
“Right after she let me know about the tutoring today, I got a call from my son’s school that he was struggling,” she said. “It was like God telling me that he needed to be here.”
Shalena Lewis also was grateful for a tutoring program super-close to the community.
“It’s a blessing from God,” she said. “I really appreciate this.”
Tutoring will be 4-6 p.m. every Wednesday in the church fellowship hall. In the future, Gadsden said, she would like to hold tutoring sessions Monday through Thursday, so she is looking for more sponsors and volunteers to make that possible.
For more information, email [email protected]
Reach Jasmine Hager at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]