You can take religion out of the schools, but you can’t take it out of the students’ hearts.
WyandotCARES offers devotional Bible study for 450 third through eighth grade students in Upper Sandusky, Mohawk, Riverdale and Carey schools.
“Basically, WyandotCARES is released-time Bible education,” board member Jenni Miller said. “… In Upper Sandusky, we have been blessed. We get 85 percent of the kids that go to this.”
Participating students leave school once per week to attend religious education classes hosted by local churches. These classes are offered on a voluntary basis for students whose parents have signed a written permission slip.
“You’re never too young to start reading the Bible,” Upper Sandusky WyandotCARES teacher Becky Ehrman said. “You’re never too young to share with people what Christ has done in your life.
“Twenty-five to 30 percent of our students never go to church,” Ehrman added. “For them, this is the only place where they go to learn about Jesus.”
WyandotCARES classes range in length from 30-45 minutes, during which students learn lessons based upon Old and New Testament stories, memorize scripture, pray and play instructional or review games.
“You learn how to live your life better and to know the way you should or shouldn’t live,” said WyandotCARES student Seth Lortz, a seventh-grader at Union School
“It’s good because it teaches you right from wrong,” Seth’s classmate, Weston Foust, added.
According to Miller, the Bible classes help participants become better students.
“Studies by independent organizations, such as the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and National Association of Social Workers, have found that students who participate in released-time Bible classes evidence stronger literacy skills,” Miller said. “Their standardized test scores not only are not hurt by absences occasioned by these classes, but students who are at at-risk can be helped by their participation in released time.”
WyandotCARES students recently took their lessons learned to the community with the “Love Your Neighbor” campaign.
“WyandotCARES is about teaching school children about the love of God and what it means to love him in return,” Ehrman said. “… A lot of people have neighbors, but as an organization, we connect that with first we love God and we show our love for God by helping our neighbors. It starts with God and loving him. God gets all the credit for it. It’s not us. He’s just using us to accomplish something good in our community.”
As part of the “Love Your Neighbor” campaign, students raised $702 for Open Door Resource Center in Upper Sandusky. More than half of the money was raised by 10-year-old Storm Rife, a fourth-grader at East School. Storm held a bake sale in front of A & A Groceries in March, raising $428.50.
“I just love to help my community,” Storm said.
“I really enjoy the classes, too. It’s neat to hear all the stories about God because that’s what it’s all about. I think it’s a really good experience for all the young children to learn about God.”
Storm encouraged the workers at Wilson Tire to get involved. After seeing a picture of Storm selling baked goods in The Daily Chief-Union, the Upper Sandusky business donated $50 to the campaign.
Other students also did their part to earn money.
“One of the main lessons I wanted to teach the students was that they should earn the things they wanted to donate,” Ehrman said. “One boy brought $10 of his heard-earned paper route money. A fifth-grade girl did some work for her dad and came with five rolls of pennies. Another made her grandma’s bed for $1 and donated that. Other’s gave out their allowance.”
WyandotCARES students also collected food for the Christian Food Center in Upper Sandusky.
“This campaign gave me a chance to help others and show them that I care for them and I’m willing to help them,” East School fifth grader Madelyn Shasteen said. “This is a great idea because sometimes I don’t know how to help someone and this gave me a chance to help others.”
Mohawk, Carey and Riverdale students are taught by Linda Webster and Mike Todd. Nearly 100 volunteers also help with the students and the program is supported by more than 30 area churches.
“It sounds like we have a huge volunteer staff, but we always need more,” Ehrman said. “We would welcome anybody who’s interested in volunteering an hour or two, either once a week, once a month or once or twice a year. We’re always looking for people who can step up and do that.”
For more information about WyandotCARES or to become a volunteer, call Ehrman at 419-209-9998.
By CHANDA NEELY