LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — When it comes to improving education, we can't expect the Clark County School District to do it alone.
One faith-based organization says the church can play a role.
Club Christ has been offering after-school programs for more than a decade. They are bringing hope and improved test scores to some of our most vulnerable students.
A neighborhood near Texas Station has signs of trouble: graffiti, garbage, and unkempt homes. But inside an apartment, kids are learning, and there is hope.
"Why else? Why are you committed to a school?" asks one volunteer.
Club Christ runs a learning center and this ministry goes into at-risk apartment complexes and asks the managers to donate a unit.
In turn, they open it up several days a week for after-school tutoring.
"In this community, in a lot of Hispanic communities, parents don't speak English. That is a huge barrier for them to help their kids graduate from high school and get to college. We want to be that extra resource for them," he said.
Hartsell founded this ministry when he was a 20-year old college student at UNLV. Now, 15 years later, there are four learning centers in different at-risk neighborhoods.
Stephanie has been coming to the learning center for six years.
"My parents don't understand what I'm doing, and they don't speak English either. So whenever I do need help, I come to them," she said.
Angela Cho is the program director for Club Christ. She says volunteers do simple things like calling a child by name to remind them they are unique.
"A lot of our kids have faced tough struggles. Things that I can't imagine going through from a young age," Cho said.
Rico has been coming to the learning center for eight years.
"My parents help me, but the Center helps me also. So they are both equal. A team," he said.
At the elementary level, the focus is on homework and English. And Cho says the consistent tutoring is working.
"We've seen the last three years consistently our kids are reading on grade level. Eighty percent of our students are on grade level which is a huge jump," she said.
As once these kids become teenagers, the focus shifts to leadership training.
Liz is a student who says she comes to the learning center because she feels safe and loved.
"They taught me to be confident in myself and how to read the Bible," she said.
And that is not something Club Christ is shy about.
They know if kids can't read, they can't read the Bible either. And that's a big part of their motivation.
Hartsell says the church has a role to play in educating our kids.
"Churches do need to be involved in this. The need is great in Las Vegas. To be engaged means serving, coming to help out," he said.
Club Christ is looking to expand.
If you manage or own an apartment complex, they'd love to talk to you about using a unit for their after school program.
Apartment managers that have welcomed Club Christ say the after-school program improves community culture and keeps kids from getting into mischief in their complexes.
Club Christ has a model to protect kids.
For example, there are always multiple adults present.
Parents are not only welcome; they are encouraged to pop in. And this group has a proven track record, tutoring kids for more than a decade.
Make sure you carefully research any group you plan to leave your children with.