By Sierra Whitten
As Oxford residents’ young and old adjust to the new normal way of life, one local tutoring group is taking extra steps to provide a bit of familiarity in their students’ lives.
Led by Executive Director Teresa Adams, LeapFrog is a free afterschool tutoring and mentoring program that serves first, second, and third-grade students from Oxford and Lafayette County schools.
Like many other Oxford businesses, LeapFrog had to shut its doors March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Adams and the LeapFrog team have worked tirelessly to provide supply packets and connect students and tutors virtually.
“That was a hard decision, one that had to be made, but one that I knew would affect so many of our students negatively,” Adams said. “ The idea to continue to tutor using apps like Facetime and Zoom was made to try to provide some type of consistency to our students.”
This year marks Adam’s 14th year with the LeapFrog program. Though the school year is ending differently than others, Adam’s hopes that their virtual services can continue to help students grow academically.
LeapFrog ‘s tutoring services reach 120 elementary students across the county through trained and eager volunteers from the University. These volunteers work alongside the elementary students as a friend guiding them through weekly phonics lessons in hopes to achieve their goals of reading on grade level.
“I have seen how the program has affected our college students. They have created and maintained relationships with a group of students they may have never come in contact with,” Adams said. “Our volunteers are incredibly dedicated and involved in the program. I am forever grateful and in awe of their dedication to our students.”
Former volunteer, London Kindred, described the experience of seeing her tutoring student run into the building with a bright smile ready to learn as rewarding and motivational.
“Working with Mrs. Adams and the LeapFrog program helped me to discover a passion for helping children grow to their full potential,” Kindred said. “My time with the LeapFrog program inspired me to change my major to communication sciences & disorders in hopes of one day working in schools as a speech-language pathologist.”
Since 2009, Adams has witnessed firsthand how much of a difference just a few hours a week of individualized one-on-one tutoring makes for these students who may otherwise lack resources needed to support academic achievement, which is why it is so important to keep these services going.
“I have witnessed so many lives touched during my time as the ED. Our students and their families have shown great appreciation over the years for the service. Our students have achieved such growth and improvement academically,” Adams said. “Seeing our students’ and volunteers’ success makes everything worth it to me.”
Adams and the LeapFrog team are planning to move into a permanent, centrally located home in one of the Oxford School District buildings this fall. But until then, they will continue to work remotely until it is safe to reopen. However, these unprecedented times and a decline in donations do make for a window of uncertainty.
“I know the Oxford and Lafayette Community are resilient and known for their willingness to get behind each other during a crisis, as we have seen,” Adams said. “I just hope people will continue to give to programs like United Way, The Food Pantry, The Oxford Community Market, and other organizations that are working tirelessly to serve Oxford during this time.”
To learn more about LeapFrog and ways to support it, visit theleapfrogprogram.org.