Bear2Bear program aids struggling elementary school

Baylor students partner with the staff and administration of Waco ISD through the new program, Bear2Bear, helping students in need around the Waco area. Courtesy of Bear2Bear

By Courtney Sosnowski | Reporter

Just three miles from Baylor’s campus, J.H. Hines Elementary School waits expectantly to know if they will be open for the next school year. When one Baylor student heard how the school has been unable to meet state standards, he felt called to action. The result was a program called Bear2Bear, which invites Baylor students to partner with the J.H. Hines in supporting education.

“Right when I met the principal, right when I saw students is when in my mind it clicked: this is not something to take lightly,” Mansfield senior Luke Walker said. “This is something very serious that can either hurt or help a lot of people.”

After returning from a service project in Louisiana, Walker and some friends wanted to get involved in serving Waco families. He learned about J.H. Hines when he connected with the Office of Community Engagement & Service, which exists on campus to help the Baylor community rally around positive social change. After that, he started working with Carrollton junior Hannah Causey, the student body External Vice President, to see how Baylor students could fill this need in Waco.

“We’re so blessed with the opportunity to come to [Baylor],” Causey said “…if we can help [J. H. Hines] in a little way, like providing pencils and paper or going to read to them or donating candy, it’s so simple and it’s something that can make an impact not only in these kids lives but in the community itself.”

Of the seven zip codes in Waco, one zip code primarily feeds in to J.H. Hines Elementary. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s  American Community Survey, 39.2 percent of the population of around 8,000 live in this zip code live below the poverty level. The students of J.H. Hines have struggled to meet standards in reading and math.

Baylor students can partner with J.H. Hines in various different ways, with various different time commitments. Since reading is the biggest area of need, Baylor students can commit to meeting with the elementary students daily or weekly at various times during the school day in order to read to the children, and assist with tutoring.

Baylor students can also participate in the Trunk-or-Treat event scheduled for Oct. 25. Causey explained that the goal of this event, as well as the tutoring, is to build motivation of the students, and allow them to see people who are rooting for them to succeed.

When Baylor students participate, they are joining forces with the staff and administration of Waco ISD, who have been involved in meetings with Walker and Causey about Bear2Bear.

All Baylor students are invited to be involved in this partnership.

“Every joy starts as a discipline, and this I think is a discipline for us in the beginning,” Walker said. “…for some people it may be a joy but other people might say ‘man this is going to be a lot of work’. But overtime, you realize this is the greatest joy we could invest in.”