The honorees sat at the center table surrounded by noisy, energetic and appreciative children who ran circles around the tables and spilled Kool-Aid until the ceremony official blew his whistle.
“We want to recognize our tutors for taking time out to help us,” said Tyrone Raybon, a coordinator at the J.W. “Blind” Boone Community Center. “Y’all are very special to us. I know you put up with a lot, but this year was a very big success.”
On Thursday night, volunteer tutors for Moving Ahead, an after-school club, were recognized for their efforts during the past school year.
The program, funded by a federal grant, was started in October 2003 and provides tutors for 35 children from kindergarten through eighth grade. The children are referred to the program by school counselors.
Tuesday through Thursday, children ride the bus from school to the Blind Boone Center, where they work on their homework with volunteer college students and retired teachers from 4 to 6 p.m.
“My favorite part is the learning and the tutors. They do help,” D’Angelo Carter, a third-grader said.
D’Angelo and his twin brother have both benefited from the program, said Carroll Zu-Bolton, the program’s head coordinator.
“We have received e-mails from their teachers stating that these students have really stepped up their learning process,” Zu-Bolton said. “They come to school better prepared and more informed about the subjects.”
Jeff Johnson, a board commissioner for the Columbia Housing Authority, has two children who attend the program. He attributes the program’s success to its structure, which pairs the children up with the same tutors all year.
“This is the best program I’ve seen in Columbia,” Johnson said. “Most programs aren’t structured like this. If this program were to go downhill, I don’t know what I would do. I know it will keep going and going because of all the good volunteers.”
Tamisha Rhodes, a first-grader outfitted Thursday in a Strawberry Shortcake backpack that rivaled her in size, knows why she goes to the program every day.
“I think coming here makes it easy to learn,” Rhodes said.