Price Memorial A.M.E. Church is turning an old house in danger of demolition into a mentoring center for youths in East Cleveland, regardless of race. It will be a place for health professionals to volunteer their time.
“The cost is free, absolutely free,” said Price Memorial pastor the Rev. Tresa Oglesby.
She said children from low-income families tend to struggle with foreign languages, reading, math, science, English and the arts.
Zion Mentoring Center will open Oct. 22 to address those deficiencies in young people ranging in age from kindergarten to high school in group and individual settings. The goal is for poor children to enter college without having to take noncredit remedial courses.
“We need to target those areas, so we have identified economically disadvantaged children, regardless of their race. They are targeted because that’s what this community is,” she said.
“If you look at colleges and universities, most African-Americans go in with a deficiency, meaning they didn’t take the required courses when they were in high school.”
She said when children from economically disadvantaged homes do enter college, they are placed in remedial classes.
“Since we know they go into these schools with deficiencies, that is an area we need to address. Reading is another area we need to address because people might be able to read without an understanding of what they have just read. They can’t comprehend it, so they don’t do as well,” she said.
Oglesby said many students enter college on the HOPE Scholarship funded by the Tennessee Lottery.
“They can enter college, but they can’t stay because their grade-point average falls and they suffer during the first semester. Then they are kicked out of the university because they no longer have the lottery scholarship,” she said.
The pastor believes these students can be prepared for a positive college experience.
“That’s why this center is setting in the middle of this community we want to serve.”
She said, there is a need for tutoring some young and senior adults.
“There are some needs they have if they are going to help their children,” she said. “There are basic skills all of us need regardless of our economic background.”
She hopes to provide some health screenings that do not cost a lot of money.
Once the center is up and running, Oglesby expects to serve up to 75 people at various times.
“We’re just hoping we’ll see a change in test scores in three to five years,” she said.
The gap between performance and academic goals broadens as students age through school.
“Believe it or not, it is associated with the fact that they’re kicked out of school more often. Economically disadvantaged children are kicked out school or suspended twice the number times of those who are not economically disadvantaged,” she said.
She said that is because children from higher-income families can be tutored, unlike some of families in the neighborhood that have yearly incomes of less than $10,000.
“The majority of them (families in the neighborhood) qualify for welfare, qualify for food stamps and qualify for health care,” Oglesby said.
The educational gap arises from behavioral and cognitive issues, “so you try to change both of them at the same time so children can excel.”
She said Price Memorial works with Cleveland Bradley Services, Bradley Initiative for Church and Community, the school of education at Lee University and 100 Black Men of Bradley County, among others.
“We have quite a bit of support from this community,” she said.
Oglesby said although the mentoring center is an outreach of the church, it is not a religious program where people would feel pressured to join the church. It will be open to people of all faiths, races and ethnic groups.