It’s the closing ceremony for the Breakfast Club reading program at Bay Shore, New York’s Fifth Avenue Elementary School. First and second graders chatter and giggle with the prospect of a long summer ahead of them.

They assault the table loaded with bacon, eggs, fresh fruit, and bagels, then take their trays to fold-down tables and eat happily, ready for a full day of school.

The district superintendent is here alongside this Long Island school’s principal. So is a photographer, capturing the moment for the school yearbook. This could be any public school ceremony anywhere in the country, but for one significant difference: the presence of volunteers from Grace Baptist Church. For the past year, they’ve been partnering with the school by offering weekly one-on-one mentoring and tutoring to these students.
Long Island Youth Mentoring (LIYM), a Christian ministry that connects churches with their communities through mentoring programs, has brokered this partnership between a church and a New York public school. LIYM connects churches to schools, churches to foster homes, and Christian role models to at-risk children and teens, giving Christians the tools and training to mentor those in need.
Typically, a child who isn’t reading by third grade will not attend college. Reading is no magic wand but it is a door opener–so every Monday parents who realize they need help drop off their children at the church, where they meet with their individual mentors, have breakfast, and work on school-assigned reading and vocabulary. A school bus picks them up from the church and takes them to school, while teachers coordinate with mentors to ensure that the time is used effectively.

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