The Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program has been a United Way Partner for several years, and we look forward to collaborating with organizations in our region to promote student success. Even though we focus on three communities, we hope that this educational and informative website will be a benefit for all who visits. We solicit your support and encourage everyone to get involved in the lives of our youth!
In 1996, area educator Kenny Lewis was striving to find a program or methodology to address concerns/issues he had identified within the Danville School System. Then an assistant principal at Westwood Middle School, Lewis attended a series of educational workshops and conferences held in Arlington, Virginia, centered upon utilization of alternatives methods to combat high expulsion and suspension rates.
During one of the work sessions that Lewis attended, a presenter spoke of their personal experiences and frustrations within the school system they worked. The impassioned speaker went on to explain a program he had implemented in his home state of Louisiana, historically an educationally depressed state. The man’s name was Dr. Donald Hunter.
Lewis would get to know this name and educational innovator very well.
“I knew that we just had to do something different,” remembers Lewis, “and this was it.”
It All Starts with One Person, One Motivation, One Creative Idea
As a representative working for the Louisiana Department of Education, Hunter’s daily job was to research, compile and analyze key educational statistics. Examples were truancy, teen pregnancy amongst enrolled students and drop out rates. Every statistical category told the tale of a poorly educated K-12 base. Hunter knew that if this many kids were slipping into these pitfalls, most likely they came from families where this cycle had been repeating itself over and over again.
Even with these dismal statistics in hand and communicated to the State of Louisiana, Hunter felt as if the state was doing nothing with this information. Frustrated, Hunter turned to his other profession, pastor.
Hunter’s inner-dialogued fueled by faith in this calling produced a catalytic spark forming a totally new plan aimed at improvement of students’ educational performance. The pastor innately knew through his ministerial work that not only grades would improve, but so would overall conduct. He also held a deep conviction that personal attention in a church-based setting would aid students’ development of character and desire to contribute to their neighbors and society as a whole. These traits were deemed the base of a successful, caring person.
In a recent interview Hunter said, “I want the surrounding community to contribute to society, not the streets. The only thing you need to have is a made up mind and a willing heart that you want to get an education.”
One man with one impassioned idea was on his way. With the limitless power of a simple idea harnessed, Dr. Hunter was about to change the landscape of tutorial programs across the country.
The Genesis of the Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program
“Dr. Hunter rather quickly witnessed a significant rise in the kids’ test scores,” Lewis recalls. “The scores kept getting higher and higher and the students kept doing better and better. This success inevitably raised their self-esteem, as well.”
With the fast and rampant success of Hunter’s church-based tutorial program, the State of Louisiana began subscribing to it. “The state bought in and started spreading his model throughout Louisiana,” Lewis says. “The next progression was the federal government becoming involved, following the lead of local municipalities and the state. Of course, with more resources dedicated to a successful initiative, the educational statistics kept improving.”
In 1996, Hunter led a presentation on the inner-workings of the church-based tutorial program to City of Danville leaders, ministers, school officials and teachers. Soon after, 7 tutorial sites were set up and a Board of Directors selected to oversee the newly formed Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program (DCBTP). Soon after, Hunter was asked back to instruct a 2 ½ day intensive training session for volunteers, coordinators and ministers.
Today’s Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program
As of December 31, 2010, Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program has 26 operational sites in the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County in Virginia and Caswell County in North Carolina.
Lewis who currently serves as the DCBTP Executive Director continues, “We have had as many as 45 sites running simultaneously, but locations sometimes need a break before again hosting a site. And quite frankly, the economy hasn’t helped as volunteers have had to find additional work to support their families. That being said, we are in a very fortunate position with the dedicated volunteers, staff and Board that we have.”
The DCBTP is a volunteer collaborative between the Danville Public Schools, Pittsylvania County Schools, local colleges, area churches and businesses and parents with a mission to provide quality educational services that will expand students’ knowledge and enhance their standard of living. The organization strives to improve the learning experiences for the children in Dan River Region communities in grades K-12 through free tutoring and homework assistance.
In addition, the Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program provides an alternative educational approach and setting for students who lack proficiency in math, reading, writing, and social development and who may be at high risk of dropping out of school. The program is designed for students of all ages. Grades K-7 focuses upon formalized instruction in basic skills, while grades 8-12 dedicates resources to subject area tutoring.
Tutoring takes place in an environment where the student works closely with the tutor. Assistance is provided at home with particular support given to homework and reinforcement of teachers’ objectives. As a result of this type of instruction, students experience gains in basic skill areas and social development.
Lewis supports the program’s success by citing attendance, grade and discipline records that demonstrate vast improvement of participants in most or all categories.
“That one-on-one time makes a significant difference,” says Lewis. “Last year, 91% of the students raised overall by a letter grade. Keep in mind we are especially targeting kids with grades of a D and below. This is only one of the compelling statistics supporting our program approach and design.”
Other supporting measures of outcomes and Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program success are:
- To date over 4600 at-risk students have been serviced.
- During project year 2009-2010, the organization had an enrollment of 264 students.
- In the same year, over 130 volunteers helped administer the program, providing an approximate 2 to 1 ratio of tutors to students.
- Last year, tutors and volunteers provided over 2200 service/volunteer hours. This is a 400-hour increase from project year 2008-2009.
- Through program efficiency, DCBTP is able to currently maintain a fiscally efficient unit cost of $95 per student over the course of an entire year.
- The Board of Directors takes a special interest in nutrition and conveyance of a healthy lifestyle to its participants. These behaviors are taught and reinforced through healthy snacks and instruction to the children and their families.
- DCBTP is able to attract a wide array of at-risk students through volunteers, staff and Board members of diverse religious faiths, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Looking Toward the Future
As proactive and successful leaders of the Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program , the last thing one expects from them is complacency or resting on their laurels. “We strive everyday to help the Dan River Region,” comments Lewis. “The Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program wants to become more and more involved in the community and gather it around the kids to act as a support system. I personally encourage any individual, church or organization that wants to be involved to contact us. We do not want to exclude anybody.”
Current DCBTP Board President Pastor Ed Pope is at the forefront of a five- year strategic plan to increase program availability while attracting resources to benefit those taking part.
“I have been involved with the Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program for about 5 to 6 years and have been President of the Board for a little over a year,” says Pope. “The Board wants to see further expansion throughout the Dan River Region communities while adding a reading specialist at every site. We would also really like to expand our reach into Caswell County, North Carolina. All of these goals are attainable. We just have to work at it.”
Lewis adds, “We also want to add a computer lab at each site and small budget for educational supplies and field trips to places such as the Danville Science Center (DSC) and Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). Science, technology and math are of major priority.”
Pope is quick to point out that for the children to succeed, their families need to prosper. “We work with parents as well,” explains Pope. “The DCBTP offers parenting and skills development classes. Our organization has identified the fact that we must work from the ground up to make lives better.
As everybody involved with the nonprofit world knows, to his or her very core, it only takes one person to make a visible difference. If a number of people with a shared commitment get together to build a program centered on a common vision, then the resulting effect is obviously exponentially more powerful and effective.
Lewis concludes with a smile, “There is no doubt that our kids are our future.”
B.R. Ashby, M.D. Award for Outstanding Community Service
The B.R. Ashby, M.D. Award for Outstanding Community Service recognizes the service by Dr. B. R. Ashby, who has contributed his time and efforts to improve conditions in the Dan River Region. As a founding Board Member and first Chairman of the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF), Ashby’s leadership helped guide the Danville Regional Foundation toward the entity it is today. DRF focuses on the creation of a thriving region that works well for everyone. While most of DRF’s efforts focus on long-term investments, this award is unique at the Foundation as it honors the community service achievements of a single organization.
Dr. Ashby has served the Dan River Region for decades. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Ashby has served on the Board of Directors at Danville Regional Medical Center as President of the Medical Staff. He has also leant his leadership skills as the first Chairman of the Danville Community College Educational Foundation Board.
For his continuous involvement in the community, the Kiwanis Club of Danville honored Ashby as the 2001 Kiwanis Citizen of the Year. Recognizing Ashby’s talents, Governor Tim Kaine tapped him in 2006 to serve on the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia.
Competition for this grant was strong, with 16 eligible 501(c)(3) organizations nominated for the funds. According to Karl Stauber, CEO & President of DRF, “Many very deserving organizations were nominated for this special grant. With the Danville Church-Based Tutorial Program’s high level of measurable success coupled with its scope in serving the Dan River Region, DCBTP is an excellent recipient.” Qualifications for the grant include that the organization be at least 5 years old and maintained 501(c)(3) status for at least 5 years. The applicant organization must be based in the DRF service area (City of Danville, Virginia and Counties of Pittsylvania County, Virginia and Caswell County, North Carolina) with a majority of its clients in the same locale.