A tutoring center at the Casa de Proclamación y Alabanza Church of the Nazarene in Cataño, Puerto Rico, is giving students a better chance at the future they deserve by providing free tutoring lessons. The center also introduces students to possible career paths and shows them the love of Christ in every encounter.
Lead Pastor Gladibell Rivera started the center nearly 20 years ago when she couldn’t afford tutoring for her daughter.
“I needed a math tutor for my daughter, but the price was really high,” Rivera said. “It got me thinking that the parents who had low resources definitely would not have the opportunity to pay for tutoring.”
After a lot of planning, collaboration, and support, the church tutoring center launched services for first through sixth-grade students.
“Children who finished sixth grade asked why we stopped there and that they needed more help,” Rivera said. “So, we continued and we expanded our tutoring to 12th grade. Today, we even help college students because we offer them internet access, and some of them come to take their tests online.”
The tutoring center’s growth didn’t happen overnight. When the center first opened, local school teachers didn’t want their students to attend.
“The greatest struggles were at the beginning when the teachers at the school learned that we were a church,” Rivera said. “We were expecting teachers to refer the students to us. Instead, the teachers wanted to keep a separation between school and church. But, as soon as the parents learned we had a program, they started sending their children to us on their own.”
The tutoring center not only helps children from low-income households but students with learning disabilities or students living with abusive families.
“There was a girl named Paula who started attending the tutoring center when she was in fourth grade that was suffering from domestic violence in the home,” Rivera said. “Whenever I would ask her what she wanted to study in college, she was hesitant. I told her that she was brilliant, and that she could pursue something great. When she grew up, she was accepted into medical school, and while she was a college student, she came to us and she said that she wanted to return that which she had received from us. So, she volunteered in the tutoring center.”
The center hopes to continue positively impacting children like Paula and has many plans for the future. Recently, the center began inviting professionals to explain their careers to the students and give them an idea of what futures they can pursue.
“So far, we have had experts in insurance, nursing, accounting, and interior design,” Rivera said. “We do this because there are youth in high school who are still not sure what to study when they get to college or what career they should pursue for their lives.”
While education is important, the goal has always been to demonstrate Christ’s love and compassion to the students.
“Some people ask us how many people have come to church because of the tutoring center,” Rivera said. “We tell them perhaps not that many, but all have known Christ because of the center.”