By Jessica Connor
South Carolina United Methodists passionate about literacy and education now have a new resource at their fingertips: a comprehensive county-by-county list of education programs and organizations across the state.
The list, Education Partnership Resources, was posted to the conference’s website, www.umcsc.org, last week, and denominational leaders hope it will serve as a helpful resource to enable individuals and churches to partner with existing groups, all to help the children.
“The list includes everything from tutors to mentors to reading buddies to afterschool programs to snack pack programs and more, and we are hopeful that churches will partner with these programs and build relationships with not just the children but the families,” said Matt Brodie, conference communications director. “These are our children because they are God’s children, and we believe that raising education in South Carolina is the first step in fighting poverty and crime and giving children the opportunities to better their lives.”
“The Task Force on Children in Poverty worked through Connectional Ministries to employ a college student for the summer to compile this information,” said the Rev. Kathy James, director of Connectional Ministries. “The goal is to provide resources to churches as they seek to develop relationships with schools in their communities.”
The list was developed after this year’s Million Book Effort, a conference-wide book drive that collected hundreds of thousands of brand-new preschool- and elementary-level books for children in poverty. After the MBE ended at Annual Conference this June, organizers decided to carry the effort a step further, moving beyond book collection and distribution into combatting poverty and illiteracy through hands-on relationship. Many churches and districts created or strengthened partnerships during the MBE by volunteering with schools, afterschool tutoring centers and more.
Katelyn Nash, Connectional Ministries’ intern, spent the summer researching and indexing the list, which comprises at least two programs—sometimes far more—in each of the 46 counties across South Carolina.
“It was a really interesting process for me, and I learned a lot,” said Nash, a junior education major at Winthrop University who plans to be a teacher after graduation. “I was surprised how inconsistent things were in the various districts, from the way they set up their websites to the quality of education. But no matter where it was, they were all eager for our support.”
Brodie said the list is being shared with the LARCUM (Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist) bishops’ group, as part of the bishops’ public education initiative. The bishops have committed to make church support of public education a priority for five years.
“We are following the books to the children, not just giving them out,” James said. “It’s about real relationship.”
For more information, visit www.umcsc.org or call 803-786-9486.