A unique youth enrichment program at the Zebulon Boys & Girls Club has already yielded some success stories since its implementation in September.
Four club members graduated at the end of the fall semester from the program introduced by Read and Feed, a Cary-based nonprofit that unites books, food and volunteer tutors at sites across the county in an effort to boost academic confidence in young students.
Graduating four enabled the program to serve four additional club members who could benefit from the weekly sessions. The program has a capacity of 24 students.
While participation on the student end has never been an issue, program leaders would like to see more volunteers step up to help them at least achieve their desired 2-to-1 ratio of students to volunteers. They would prefer, however, to see the ratio improve to closer to one volunteer per student.
“Some nights it is a little bit dire,” said Heather Cross, Read and Feed volunteer and program director. “There have been nights we’ve been really short staffed. A lot of the volunteers are retired and travel a lot.”
Volunteer support at the Zebulon club has, for the most part, been sufficient since its start. But a few out of what was a team of about 12 helpers have faded off as other priorities have risen.
“The enthusiasm is always there in the beginning, and then life happens,” Cross said. “That’s not unusual.”
Cross said growing the pool of volunteers to draw from will help when some volunteers are out of town, or have family priorities or other commitments that prevent them from making it to the sessions.
She said the operation would be on cruise control if the volunteer pool becomes deep enough for there to be one-on-one attention for the students – a higher goal she attributed to Zebulon club board member and Read and Feed team lead Carol Weeks.
“If we could get 20 volunteers, that would be fantastic,” Cross said. “Sometimes there are children who may need a little more attention than some of the other children, so I think that’s what Carol is going for, a 1-to-1 ratio, and that is definitely a goal we have at some of our sites.
“We’ve been able to make it happen at some other sites in Wake County, and I think we can make it work here too.”
During each session at the Zebulon Boys & Girls Club, held Mondays from 4:45-6:15 p.m., elementary-age children get to work with tutors, eat a meal, earn prizes and collect books that should make up a small at-home library by the time the program runs its course. The program there runs through May 16 and is expected to resume in the fall after Read and Feed’s relaxed summer program schedule concludes.
Anyone can volunteer, so long as they clear a background check and attend a training session. Teens ages 15-17 can also volunteer with a parent present.
Read and Feed also offers two programs in Knightdale: a mobile classroom on Mondays through May in the Rutledge Landing community off Poole Road, and a fixed program on Wednesdays through April at Northside Community Church.
For more information on the programs, or to volunteer, visit readandfeed.org, or contact Cross at 919-538-3840 or Weeks at 919-269-8935.