By Caroline Yablon | Reporter
Every time I am in the car approaching the stoplight at the intersection of I-35 and New Road, it never fails me to see a homeless person holding up a sign asking for change; watch homeless men and women roaming the streets of the “grease pit,” an array of restaurants across Baylor’s campus; or notice homeless people scavenging through trash cans on the streets.
But what isn’t seen on a day-to -day basis, is the 1,200 children Waco ISD estimates who are homeless with their families each year.
Along with Waco’s high poverty status of 27.5 percent according to Data USA, elementary students in Waco are struggling to meet the appropriate reading levels for their grade.
“45 percent of Waco ISD kindergartners and first-graders read at their grade level or higher, and 60 percent of second-graders read at grade level or higher,” the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.
I believe that education is the driving force to end the cycle of poverty, and college students are part of the solution to helping the problem.
Baylor students aren’t in control of changing a child’s circumstance when it comes to their home life, but what a Baylor student is in control of is helping improve the child’s academic life; which can be done through the STARS mentoring project, started by Antioch Community Church.
According to the STARS Mentoring Project the organization hopes “to change the course of a child’s life by raising volunteers to read with two to three students once a week for 30 minutes at their school. This is a big treat for the kids, and we’ve seen many of them catch up to their grade’s reading level.”
Being a STARS volunteer gives a Baylor student the opportunity to help break the barriers that keep a child from being successful in school and ending the cycle of poverty. This work is transforming the lives of students and their families, as well as the community.
STARS is making students excited about reading and learning. As a result, students reading levels are increasing.
In a recent Antioch article, Impacting Our City –– STARS Mentoring Project by Mckethan Parker, a teacher explained that three of his students who are in STARS made the highest scores on their reading test, which they had never done before.
All it takes is the sacrifice of 30 minutes, once a week, and a child’s future could be changed.
This is my third year being a STAR volunteer with the same three girls. It has been rewarding to see my students grow in their reading levels and grow in their desire to learn.
Being a STARS volunteer has humbled me. The way my students have described their home-lives, they do not have all of the things that a lot of kids have these days, yet their joy echoes the walls of the school every week when we walk to the library and find a table to sit at. If one of my students can have joy while sleeping on a couch each night, then I most certainly can, too.
I also get to speak truth into my student’s lives by telling them that they have potential to do whatever they set their minds to. I talk with them a lot about going to college because I believe it is so vital in order to end the cycle of poverty. I love explaining to them that their college can be paid for if they make good grades in school –– their eyes open wide every time.
As a volunteer, I constantly have to remind myself that I am just planting the seed, and its up to my students and, of course, God to make the flowers bloom.
If a college student or an adult in the community feels led to join the STARS volunteer team, then follow this link for the volunteer application.