BY DEBORAH TODD

Helping Youth Prepare for Excellence has always been a mission of the Methodist Church. So, three years ago when John F. Smith started calling folks to volunteer for the HYPE After School Program he was organizing, I was curious. Never having had children of my own, this type of hands-on volunteering is not at the top of my list. That said, the majority of the volunteering, mentoring and giving back to my community involves kids, so God’s plan for me was far different than what I planned. After much prayer I thought, “OK, I will show up and see what he is doing.”

For the past two years I’ve seen HYPE grow into a very successful after school program where we work to make sure every child completes their homework for the following day. We mentor, praise, love, and hug. We teach respect, communication skills, and manners as well as have science, music and art experiences. I’m there most Wednesday afternoons and seeing the kids grow and benefit from our program is very heartwarming.  Kids that started two years ago are still with us, so I’ve come to know and love them as if they were my own family. When I see their smiling faces get off the bus each week, it fills my heart with joy. Getting hugs from my special friends as they walk to class shows me that we are making a difference and creating a bond that will last a long time.

Many of our kids struggle to read, so that is a big focus. The extra hour a day working with them seems like a short amount of time, but I have seen it have a big impact. Quite a few of the students  are now on honor roll or receive “Most Improved” certificates. I think our greatest contribution has been just loving our kids and showing them respect and kindness. Last week, I was helping one of my newer kindergarten kids and I told her she had to take one of the papers in her folder home to her Mom or Grandma.  She said, “Today you can be my Grandma if you want.” Her response made me see again how we are showing so much love to them, that they feel love for us as well. Wow!

In the beginning, when John was talking about the program, I asked, “But where’s the Jesus here?” I have come to realize that we, as volunteers, are the Jesus. Come join me helping to prepare our kids for excellence. You will love it like I do.

HYPE ‘s goal is to have 12 or more volunteers a day, to help the 42 Bernard Terrace students enrolled in the program. Will you “be the Jesus?” For more information about HYPE or to be the Jesus, contact Phil Espinoza, Missionary to Public Schools at 383-4777, ext. 246. Or e-mail pespinoza@firstmethodist.org.

Deborah Todd with Bernard Terrace students, Jaliyah & Carlen

Deborah helping Alexandra with her homework