Three years ago Marlene Abrams was worried about her grandson, Dalton Burry.
Dalton, then a second grader at West Vigo Elementary School, didn’t know his ABC’s; he couldn’t read; he couldn’t do basic math. Dalton’s grandfather had died recently, Marlene herself had just been diagnosed with cancer, and Dalton was upset and had little motivation for school. He had been placed in special education classes, and he seemed to think school was play time. Marlene knew he was capable of more, and she wanted more for him.
So Marlene sought out help with afterschool tutoring at Educational/Family Services (EFS) in West Terre Haute, located off Highway 150 near Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
“He’s a different little kid since he started coming to tutoring. He used to be afraid to do anything. Now he’s all boy,” Marlene said.
Marlene first heard of Educational/Family Services from Sister Betty Hopf. Sister Betty is the chaplain at the clinic where Marlene receives her cancer treatments, and she told Marlene about the Sisters of Providence sponsored ministry in West Terre Haute that offers free tutoring for children and free GED preparation and basic education assistance for adults.
Marlene is thankful that she pursued tutoring at EFS because of the changes she has seen in her grandson.
“He has more self-respect and more discipline about doing his school work. He is more cheerful about going to school. Before he used to cry about going to school because kids would tease him and call him dumb,” Marlene said.
Dalton is now 10 years old and a fifth grader at West Vigo. With help from his tutor Randi Everett, he has transitioned out of special education and into mostly mainstream classes.
Dalton says he didn’t do homework before coming to EFS, but now twice a week he gets off the bus and his grandma brings him straight to tutoring for at least an hour. Randi helps him with his homework. Then they might work on math facts or study state capitals or go to the computer to work on math games. During the summer Randi worked with him twice a week for 2-3 hours at a time.
“I had F’s and D’s and now I have A’s and B’s,” Dalton said proudly.
“Randi and Penny [Sullivan, director of EFS] have done great wonders for my grandson,” Marlene said.
Randi has worked with Dalton since he came to EFS. Randi is the part-time administrative assistant at EFS and has been there more than 10 years, since retiring from her job as a legal assistant at the penitentiary in Terre Haute. Over the years her job at EFS has expanded to include some tutoring. With no background in education, Randi was reluctant to tutor at first. But she learned by watching master teachers through the years: retired Sisters of Providence tutors who work in every nook of the house-turned-tutoring-facility after school.
Randi says she’s really bonded with Dalton.
Marlene is impressed at how Randi goes beyond the scope of her job in her commitment to Dalton, such as offering to drop Dalton off at home on her way. Randi has also invited him to her house to go fishing and paddle boating and at Christmastime to make cookies and work on a puzzle together, activities Dalton still talks about.
Marlene and Dalton also feel close to Randi.
“I love Randi. I think she is very giving. She gets through to the kids because she gives them eye contact. That is what Dalton really needed at the start,” Marlene said.
“It takes a special person to spend time with any child,” Dalton’s grandma said. And when that person is able to help a child and show them that they are something and that they aren’t dumb, that is really making a difference, she said.
Randi, who has no children of her own, says she genuinely cares about the kids she works with and enjoys the few hours each week she spends with them.
The place, the tutor, the results, it all seems to work for Dalton.
“He’s excited to come. I think sometimes he talks Randi’s leg off,” Marlene says with a laugh as she hears her grandson chatting away with Randi upstairs during a tutoring session.
Marlene is happy with the friendly welcoming atmosphere from the Sisters and staff.
Randi said caring is part of the ministry at Educational/Family Services.
“We help with life skills; we listen to problems. Everybody wants someone to listen to them,” she said.
Marlene says it is helpful that EFS does not charge for services.
“I know there are people who just don’t have the money, and thinks it’s very helpful that there is no charge.” It is useful to her family as Dalton’s mother, her daughter, is a single working parent without support. Marlene as the grandmother steps in and helps out as she can, including in facilitating her grandchildren’s tutoring.
“I wouldn’t mind paying something. They have helped Dalton so much,” she said. Marlene is happy to help by sending snacks or supplies. She realizes how needed donations and support are to the ministry so that it can continue to offer assistance to children and adults in need.
“I highly recommend to anybody who needs help to go there. They give them time; they listen; it really helps,” Marlene said.
For more information about educational assistance available at Educational/Family Services or for information on ways you can help, visit www.EducationalFamilyServices.org or call 812-535-4206.