High Point community center helps students improve reading, writing skills

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Three times a week, Natalie Lucas' afternoon starts with lots of hugs.

She volunteers with the Community Writing Center in High Point.

It is an after school program at Mount Zion Baptist Church where children work on reading and writing with service learning students from High Point University.

The books range in difficulty.

There's homework help, too, but Program Coordinator Sami Paterno says anyone who's been to the Community Writing Center knows a lot more than tutoring happens here.

"We just try to develop a one on one bond with them," Paterno said. "That way they have someone who they know they can go to and someone they know believes in them."

The center is a partnership between Kirkman Park Elementary -- a low performing, high poverty school -- and High Point University.

"To see the light that is still burning when they get off the bus, I'm hopeful that even if they when they go home, it's a dark place, maybe the light that's burning in them will illuminate the darkness in their homes," said Rev. Frank Thomas of Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

HPU student Natalie Lucas said the program is exactly what many of the students need.

"It makes me happy. It makes me feel kind of like a big sister," she said. "Because I don't have younger siblings, I have an older brother but he's 9 years older than me. So, it's a good feeling to be able to help out the children.