Kala Fields, a sophomore honors student at Anderson University leads a team of AU students who volunteer at Anderson First Church of the Nazarene by providing personal tutoring to students from Anderson Community Schools (ACS).
Tutoring began in February with Kala, her mom Lynn Fields, Jodi Sharp and Heather Petty as an extension of an outreach at their church. They set out to just work with a few middle and high school students who attend ACS, but a few of the students had younger siblings in elementary school, so they tutored them as well. [Photo on left: AU sophomore honors student Kala Fields looks over a student’s assignment.]
Almost immediately, the four realized they needed more help to continue the program. Their prayers were soon answered.
“No cell phones, T’andre, you know the rules,” Kala said while trying to get the young boy to start on his homework. The boy immediately replaced an initial look of alarm with an air of innocence then quickly replied that he was just checking his calendar.
“Don’t give me any of that,” she said firmly. “You signed the contract. Now come on, you can do this.”
After a few more short minutes of bartering, T’andre agreed to write one solid paragraph for five minutes before bugging anyone in the room again. The girl moved on around the room of working students asking if anyone else needed help.
“Ms. Kala, do you know Algebra 2?” asked one girl, as she raised her hand.
“I don’t know when they started calling me that,” said Fields.
“The program really grew out of a van ministry we have here at the church,” said Kala, who grew up in Anderson and has attended the church her whole life. “We have known most of these kids for three or four years now through that ministry.”
“We saw that there was a need and we acted on it,” Kala said.
Each year, every Honors cohort at Anderson University is required to take part in a service project that benefits the local community. Projects range from work projects to relational ministry, and every member of the cohort is required to participate. In the spring semester of 2010, Professor of Sociology and a faculty member in the Honors Program Dr. Bruce MacMurray allowed students to split into three groups to serve in different ways.
While one group helped with Operation Rebuilding the Wall and another with a local family in need, Kala led a third group of three students who tutored at the church twice a week.
Kala and the other students worked with the kids through the rest of the spring semester—helping them not only with their day-to-day homework but also teaching the kids how to set goals and the importance of achieving those goals.
The kids were required to set out specific goals relating to their schoolwork and sign a contract that featured these goals along with a set of general rules relating to the time spent during the sessions. When report cards came out at the end of the year, those kids who met their goals were treated to a pizza party in Greenwood.
“It was a great experience,” said Kala. “Many of these kids have never had to do anything like this. They just don’t teach goal-setting in schools.”
The program picked up again in August when the kids returned to school and the AU students returned to campus. Some of the students who volunteered last year came back along with a few others. This semester, among the helpers are three sophomore Honors students, one from the senior cohort and another from the freshman class.
Raleigh Bonte, a sophomore who is majoring in Christian ministries, said he really enjoys the time he spends tutoring and has learned a lot from his time working with the youth. [Photo on right: AU sophomore honors student Raleigh Bonte helps an Anderson High School student with her math homework. Bonte was one of the first students to volunteer for the program.]
“You can’t help but love them,” said Raleigh. “It’s like a whole new side of this town that I guess I never really get to see. I sure hope to stick with it as long as I’m here.”
In terms of the program’s future, Kala and the others hope it will continue to expand into a faith-based community center. The center would provide not only tutoring, but GED programs, job skill development training, daycare, Alcoholics Anonymous, drug rehab counseling, after-school programs and summer programs as well.
“Right now we are limited as to how many kids we can help,” said Lynn Fields. “We only have room for 12-20 students at the moment, but we would eventually like to get a building of our own, some more volunteers and expand this ministry into a full-time venture.”
“It just is,” said Kala in her explanation of what the ministry is to her. “This is something I am so passionate about because these are more than my neighbors. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
— Charles Holcomb is a sophomore from Westfield, Ind., majoring in communication arts and political science. Holcomb is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.