Church mentors help east side IPS students

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 1, 2016)-- IPS 15 sits in the heart of one of IMPD’s focus areas on East Michigan Street. Recent statistics show that 44 percent of the adults in the east side focus area don’t have a high school degree, 50 percent of the offenders returning home after a stint in prison don’t have a diploma and 88 percent of them read at no higher than a sixth grade level.

Inside Thomas Gregg Elementary School, educators are trying to turn those dismal numbers around with the help of a suburban church.

Before Joe Hogsett was sworn in as mayor and called on community and faith-based groups to step up to help solve the trouble in some of Indianapolis’ toughest neighborhoods, "The Creek," properly known as Indian Creek Christian Church from Franklin Township, was sending volunteers to tutor the youngest students on the east side.

“We have about 56 now that come in every week once a week and they each work with two students,” said Marcie Luhigo of The Creek. “We do our best to insure continuity so if they start with a student we do our best to make sure they stay on the next year with the same student.

“They look forward to knowing someone else is going to come in and meet with them.”

School officials told CBS4 that they have seen improvements in the reading and spelling skills of the students and the improvements have gone beyond the classroom.

“The parent involvement has increased, the relationships have improved with the school and the community we have had community projects like community clean up days that The Creek has been involved in that has gotten more parents to come out and be involved,” said Gloria Carter, IPS Parent Educator.

Faith-based groups will be expected to step up now that the Ten Point Coalition has drawn back its eastside operations to focus on neighborhoods closer to its base on the northwest side.

A group of ministers representing churches from throughout the focus area centered on East 38th Street and Sherman Drive told CBS4 they will be meeting this week to develop their own community-based approach to solve east side issues in the wake of the Ten Point Coalition’s departure.

Luhigo said mentors benefit from personal connections to neighborhoods they only see on television when their young friends are faced by communities wracked by violence.

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