After school program helps students Spring Forward

Retired teacher Margaret Gochenour, left, a Hamburg Ruritan member, works with Jesse Lemon,9, of Edinburg while Elliott Hogge, center, president of Ruritan National, looks over his shoulder during the after school tutoring and enrichment program at Zion Lutheran Church in Hamburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

EDINBURG — For children around the area, like in any part of the country, school can be tough. Take for example Hunter Wakeman, 11, from Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. About five years ago, Wakeman was having trouble with his reading assignments.

When his mother’s friend suggested he try the Spring Forward after school tutoring program, Wakeman and his sister stopped by to check it out.

“We walked around to see what it was like and we liked what we saw,” Wakeman said. “We decided to give it a shot.”

The Spring Forward after school tutoring and enrichment program is operated by the Hamburg Ruritan Club at the Zion Lutheran Church located at 321 Headquarters Road, Edinburg. Now into its seventh year, the free of cost, volunteer-run program currently serves 26 students in grades 2 through 7 from schools in the central and southern part of the district.

On Tuesday, Elliot Hogge, president of the Ruritan national organization, and other officials from the organization visited the program, which runs from 4-6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

Hogge said he has visited many Ruritan sponsored volunteer projects, but he has never seen one like this.

“This is really neat,” Hogge said. “I’ve seen plenty of projects, but I’ve never seen Ruritan volunteers sitting down with children and giving this kind of one-on-one attention.”

Along with helping students do better in school, the program also offers them educational opportunities students do not normally find in the classroom. According to Robert Perry, president of the Hamburg Ruritan Club, the program has brought in beekeepers, firemen and bird keepers to educate the children.

“All of this enrichment helps them with their testing,” Perry said. “It helps them become well rounded and able to think outside the box.”

While the Ruritan Club is a national organization, it does not operate national programs, with the exception of a scholarship program and a disaster relief fund. According to Perry Marshman, the Ruritan National director for the Rockingham district, each individual club decides what programs it offers to the community.

“Every club is the same, but every club is entirely different because they set their own programs,” Marshman said. “This is a very special program because it is just one club doing it. It’s just really phenomenal that they’re doing this.”

Ronald Moomaw, a former professor of economics at Oklahoma State University, said he began volunteering at the program this past spring, when he heard about it through the Western Shenandoah Ruritan Club. Moomaw tutors children, including Hunter Wakeman, in mathematics every Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a different kind of teaching than at the university level, but I enjoy helping and working with the kids,” Moomaw said. “I like seeing them grow in their subjects and seeing how hard they work on their assignments.”

Gina Stetter, director of special education for Shenandoah County Public Schools, was among the guests who visited the program Tuesday afternoon. Stetter said she was introduced to the program when she was the principal of Peter Muhlenberg Middle School.

“As a principal of a middle school and knowing the needs of our kids, when I heard of this program, I thought, ‘Wow, we could use that,'” Stetter said. “It’s been an absolute delight to work with the Ruritans on this project.”

According to Stetter, while there are no figures on how students have improved through the program, she has heard from parents that students have improved on completing their homework and raising their test scores. Stetter said what the program imparts is not only a better understanding of subjects, but empowerment to the students.

“A student can go home, fill out their work sheet and get a check mark for completing it without even understanding the material,” Stetter said. “But having somebody sit down, check their work and telling them they did a good job helps improve their self esteem. They know they can do it on their own now.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com