ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TIFFANI STAHL
by Tiffani Stahl
CHUMS, an after-school tutoring program for area elementary children, will expand to include sixth to eighth graders.
Starting Feb. 7, 10 students at Hillsboro Middle School will join the ranks of CHUMS.
“I’m really excited and enthusiastic about it, and grateful to the anonymous donor and to the Tabor College students who are involved,” said Tonja Wienck, HMS counselor. “Students are very excited and looking forward to it.”
CHUMS stands for “Challenging, Helping and Understanding Kids Through Mentorship,” according to program literature. The vision of the program, according to its guidelines, is “to make a difference in the lives of at-risk students.”
Tabor College students meet for an hour twice a week to help children with academic work and social skills. The sessions also include activities such as eating snacks and playing games. The mentors of middle school students will spend more of the time working on school work.
CHUMS kicks off every school year with a barbecue for the parents, CHUMS and mentors. In May, they also participate in a parade, picnic and carnival.
CHUMS was started by an anonymous donor about six years ago, said Ken Christie, director of Career Services at Tabor.
Angela Hoops, a senior majoring in elementary education and the former director of CHUMS, said the donor gives about $13,000 a year. This pays for the T-shirts, snacks and any other expenses, plus $200 per semester to each mentor.
CHUMS started with only 10 Tabor College students involved; now about 25 participate. Through CHUMS, the college students can become active in the community, Christie said.
Mike Moran, Hillsboro Elementary School counselor, said each classroom teacher picks three students who, if involved in CHUMS, would benefit from extra help and attention. Moran estimates about five to 10 children get turned away each year because there are not enough mentors.
Participation in the CHUMS program can benefit both the mentors and the elementary and middle school students.
“When students get good grades, they are more confident in themselves, and it makes me feel like I’m making a difference in their lives,” said Stephanie Wichert, a Tabor sophomore and student director of CHUMS.
Carolyn Voth, a sophomore majoring in elementary education, has been involved in CHUMS the past two years.
“It is a good opportunity if you like kids,” Voth said. “You can help them learn.”
Voth helps her third-grade student with his academic work. To help him with spelling, they play “Hangman.” They also read books and play games together.
Voth said she is gaining practical teaching experience. She also gets feedback from the teachers at the elementary school and is learning through them how she may further help her student.
Voth said it is sometimes challenging to keep things new and exciting for the children. She’s found she has to earn respect and trust from them before they will obey her.
“It is lots of fun,” she said. “I like CHUMS because it gets me away from my studies (and) it gives me a break in my day,” Voth said. “It helps get me out in the real world, (to) get involved in the community of Hillsboro.”
Moran has been working with CHUMS since it began six years ago. He said Tabor students learn how to handle different situations that arise.
Elementary students do not always know the boundaries between “work and play,” he said, and this is sometimes a challenge to the mentors.
“(CHUMS) teaches Tabor students what kinds of strategies work and what don’t work,” Moran said.
Through real situations, students can practice what they have learned in the classroom and use their natural abilities to help children, he added.
Hoops said finding activities that are fun and interesting to the children is difficult, but important.
“Being able to relate to them and coming down to their level is a challenge,” Hoops said.
Moran said he thinks CHUMS is a valuable experience for anyone going into an occupation that involves children.
“Whether it be ministry, whether it be teaching, whether it be mental health like counseling, it is a valuable experience,” Moran said.
Students planning on a teaching career can gain valuable experience in this program.
“(It is a) good opportunity especially if you are an elementary education major,” Hoops said. “(CHUMS gives you experience) dealing with a lot of parents and with administration and teachers as well.”
Working in a school setting, trying to accomplish a goal and tutoring a child will help mentors recognize the challenges and frustrations of children face today, Moran said.
“Some of the kids are coming from hurting homes that have no consistency,” Hoops said. “People don’t realize how many kids are hurting just here in this Christian community. Mentors need to be consistent and show they care.”
Hoops said she enjoys watching the children have fun.
“They are just so excited to have a Tabor student there with them,” Hoops said. “I think that’s really neat to watch.”
CHUMS makes a difference in the lives of the elementary students and the mentors, say those involved.
“If you love kids, CHUMS is definitely a worthwhile experience,” Hoops said.
Tiffani Stahl wrote this article as an assignment for her Mass Media Writing I class at Tabor College.