Giving children that extra Lift - The Echo News
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Giving children that extra Lift

After-school program helps children reach their full God-given potential

By Chin Yi Oh | Echo

Lift, a local non-profit after-school program, emphasizes academic achievement, whole person growth and spiritual nurturing for second to fourth grade Eastbrook Elementary students.

Through the program, students receive significantly more one-on-one time than a classroom teacher can provide.They learn and develop a variety of other skills through Lift’s various enrichment programs.

“I think it’s been really cool, just in the two semesters that I’ve been involved, to see the improvement in the kids,” said junior Danielle Straits, an intern for Lift. “It’s very evident that this is a very beneficial program for them, not only academically, but they are also learning behavior management, which they might not be taught that at home much. Many of them come from single-parent homes or living with their grandparents or aunts and uncles. So they are coming from rough home life situations.”

Freshman Alecia Snyder reads with a child to promote literacy as part of the Lift program. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

Freshman Alecia Snyder reads with a child to promote literacy as part of the Lift program. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

However, Lift understands that academic success alone is not enough to build a life. Lift is designed to help students learn who God is and show them how they can have a relationship with God through Jesus.

For Straits, organizations she has been a part of have either been all ministry or all academic.

“I feel like (Lift) has a really good balance,” Straits said. “It is a whole person organization, so they don’t only target academic things, but also spiritual things, which is really something I really love.”

Director of Lift Dianne Biehl said she knew there were a lot of needs in the community for children, and literacy is one of her passions. Biehl and her co-founder, Lisa Sells, launched Lift in September 2014 with 14 second graders. Lift is in its fourth year now with 36 students.

A typical Lift day starts with snack time, where students are taught to ask for more and clean up after themselves. They then go to a time of indoor recess, where volunteers are integrated and play with the kids.

The students are then separated by grade, where they read with volunteers and participate in brain-stimulating activities. Then, the whole group gathers together for worship, where students are taught different topics from the Bible, such as creation. After this, students break up into grades for team building games like capture the flag.

One of the most positive changes Biehl saw is the aspect of relationship building, where teachers are able to build relationships with the families. Students are also able to build relationships with caring volunteers who are at different stages of life.

Junior Alaina Gegner spends time with children in the Lift program. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

Junior Alaina Gegner spends time with children in the Lift program. (Photograph by Ellie Bookmyer)

Sophomore Caroline Kemper said she joined the program because being able to help students educationally with their reading, as well as helping students build relationships and showing them love is really meaningful.

According to Biehl, all of the third graders passed the iRead last year, a test students have to pass in order to go on to fourth grade or else take summer school. This shows a significant change and improvement from previous years.

Program coordinator Sarah McLeester (’15) said Taylor students should get involved in the community. She thinks that it is easy for Taylor students to get caught up in what is happening on campus, and one way to break the “Taylor bubble” would be to volunteer somewhere.

“I think Lift is unique for Taylor students to be involved in, because it’s not Taylor run but community run,” said McLeester. “When students come and volunteer, they are getting experience and connection with other volunteers who are middle schoolers, high schoolers and retired professors and community members. It’s a really broad spectrum of volunteer ages at different stages of life.”

Lift meets every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and is looking for volunteers who are engaged, have a heart and passion for this program and want to be involved in the community. Lift also offers internship opportunities. Students who wish to sign up can email McLeester at or visit the website for more information.

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