Photos by Cynthia Soper and Peter G. Sánchez
Christ the King students work with children of the Kids Alley Learning Center, Camden, during a June 14 tutoring session. Pictured are, left, Brian Kelter of Christ the King with Abimael and, below right, Erin Parker with Lilliana.
CAMDEN — At Fairview Village Methodist Church here on every Monday afternoon since April, students of Christ the King Regional School, Haddonfield, have helped Vivian Tan in her mission to provide Camden students an environment “where they feel loved and accepted.”
The Kids Alley Learning Center in the Fairview section of Camden was established in 2004 to “illustrate God’s love for (them) and to empower them with a message of hope,” according to Tan. It is open for children during the school year, Mondays-Thursdays, from 3-5:30 p.m.
The program developed from a Saturday morning outreach program for Camden youth that began in 1998. It has expanded to include after school tutoring four days a week, a summer vacation Bible school and a Christian leadership program.
The after school program employs two full-time staff members and three part-time, and includes teaching-certified volunteers.
“Seventy percent of (the 43) Camden students in the program come from Spanish-speaking families, so their parents aren’t even able to help with homework,” explained Tan.
That’s where the 15-20 seventh graders from Christ the King step in, tutoring K-8 students in math, science, English and other subjects.
Once homework is completed, the Camden and Haddonfield students usually play board games such as Chutes N’ Ladders and Battleship, or go outside and play soccer or throw a football.
Kids Alley youth come from four area public schools: Sumner School, Cream School, Woodlynne School, and Yorkship School. When they arrive, they are led in prayer, offered a snack and tutored, on Mondays by Christ the King students, and on other days by different schools (Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken also aids Kids Alley students).
The after school tutoring program “feels good, it’s the right thing to do,” said Christ the King student Maureen O’Kane.
Kids Alley “gives us a chance to help the less fortunate,” added Griffin McCormick.
For Christ the King students, “it gives them the chance to see there’s another world outside their own,” said Dawn McCormick, mother of Griffin, and Christ the King’s coordinator for Kids Alley. She figures out how many students are going to volunteer each week and makes sure there are parents to provide transportation to and from Camden.
McCormick and her eight children became involved with Kids Alley when working with its Saturday morning program, making and passing out lunches to Camden youth. Soon, her son Griffin’s seventh grade basketball team was doing the same, and then a call came from Christ the King’s religious education office, re-
questing help for the Kids Alley after school program.
The tutors “mean the world” to the Camden students, McCormick said. “It boosts their confidence.”
Kids Alley students “see Christ the King students as superheroes,” said Tan. “They see them as someone they can talk with, play with.”
Tan proudly added that each Camden student in the Kids Alley program will be moving up a grade level in their respective schools in the fall. A few months ago, she noted, that didn’t seem like a possibility.
The Christ the King students plan on going back in the fall to the after school program, and McCormick said Christ the King also will help with Kids Alley summer programs.
Kids Alley rents space in the church, and Tan cannot accommodate all the students wanting to enter the program. There already is a waiting list for next year. Tan is hoping to move to larger space in the future.
For more information about Kids Alley, visit www.kidsalley.org