The State of Education and How Tutoring to the Top is Making a Difference in Wayne and Duplin County, NC

Recently, a local high-school story went viral when it showed old equipment, broken floors, and rats in the school. That story was further detailed with descriptions of fighting and complete lack of control or respect in the classrooms. Teachers are overwhelmed and physically assaulted in classrooms. Administrators are overwhelmed. Students are ruling the room in anarchy and chaos. It’s not just this one school, nor is it all gang-related activity. This is the state of norm with kids in many schools today.

How can we expect teachers to control a room where they are scared and fear for their lives?

How can we expect proper authority to be established when state budgets are constantly seeing cuts to funding instead of increases?

More and more parents are tired of trusting the broken public education system. As a result, more and more families are pulling their kids out and into private schools. More and more new schools are appearing as well.

But what do you do if you can’t afford to send your kid to private school, nor do you have the time to stay home and homeschool them? How do we tackle the learning gaps when our kids come home with mountains of homework and frustration over all the things they don’t understand?

The best we can do is become active advocates for the care and education of our children. Whenever possible, that should include tutoring to help students overcome the deficiency they are experiencing.

(The following story was originally published in The Duplin Times.)

According to the US Census Bureau, 33-34% of people living in poverty in Wayne and Duplin counties are 18 years old or younger. Research suggests that constant changes, stress at home, and unequal access to learning resources contribute to lags in learning in the classroom. For things to get better, there has to be a concentrated effort inside education to recognize and assist where there is need. Tutor To The Top, part of the non-profit mission of Rones Chapel Area Community Center, is a free K-12 tutoring program that can help. 

Tutor To The Top has been serving southern Wayne and northern Duplin counties since 2016. They offer tutoring with credentialed, experienced tutors to anyone that needs it–regardless of socioeconomic status. Tutoring sessions are by appointment only and one hour a week per child. Appointments are available after school between 4 and 7pm at partnering locations. Sessions are currently offered at the Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive and Rones Chapel Area Community Center in northern Duplin county. 

Recently, the program opened a partnership with the fitness and wellness center, Dream Works, in Warsaw. Brian Dicicco, the facility director, said they were excited to provide the space for Tutor To The Top because “we operate on a faith-based set of values and want to be able to offer services to the community–not just be a fitness and wellness business”. In addition to low-cost memberships, Dream Works offers rentable spaces and has partnered with other community outreach events such as the Toys 4 Tots Drive with the Salvation Army in December 2021.   

Since COVID and remote learning, 20% more families saw the value in tutoring services and enrolled their children in Tutor To The Top in 2021. The increased demand just makes funding more challenging. Families are encouraged to donate to help cover the cost of tutoring, but they are not turned away if they are unable to pay. Neither are tutors lessened in their pay for the services they provide. What keeps the program alive is individuals and sponsors willing to donate funds to the program. Connie Wells, CEO of the Rones Chapel Area Community Center, said “generosity can come from the most unexpected places. Sometimes parents struggling to put food on the table are the biggest donors to the program because they see the value in investing in their children’s education.” 

Parents with children in the Tutor To The Top program through 2021 had glowing things to say about the program. “In their feedback forms,” Connie Wells said, “they told us that in 2021 one student’s math grades went from 13% to 91% in three months, another student made the honor roll in the first semester, and many more found that tutoring helped bridge the gap for their child’s remote COVID-related learning. Almost all parents recognized their kids have an increased self-awareness from tutoring that empowered them to be better advocates for themselves in classrooms as well.” 

What everyone agreed on–parents, students, and tutors–was that they want more time together. Tutors have invested in growing character–not just better grades–in their clients. Connie Wells said this is because “we are interested in growing professionals not just helping kids pass tests.”

To contact the organization to sponsor Tutor To The Top or to enroll a child in tutoring services, email RCACC@earthlink.net, call (919) 658-0476 and leave a message, or go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RCACC.NC/