Exciting Partnership with Johnson Elementary School: Interview with Mr. K

Mar 13, 2024|Written By: Faith Kelley

Abundant Life’s Calvin Kellum and Faith Kelley sat down with Johnson Elementary School Assistant Principal, John Kronstain for a special interview on Abundant Life’s on-site Tutoring Program at Johnson Elementary.

“I think Abundant Life does the things that I need any outside agency to do- they come and they work in the schools but then they also have the connection in the community. So they’re invested with families and students on a deeper level that surpasses what just happens in these [school] walls, and that’s how we’re going to see a change for families and students because there’s a trust.

It’s also great to have a partnership with an organization that is willing to learn from us as well so that they can best serve the students. So that the tutors and the people in charge of making curriculum can plan with teachers- that’s been huge for teachers this year, as we connect that more. If a kiddo has a specific need, you all [Abundant Life] want to make sure that you’re not just doing another thing that’s not going to still help them be successful. Having the college students who are there also as kind of a big brother big sister type role is super important for the kiddos because they [the students] really love looking up to older kids. It also gives them something to shoot for, this idea of, “Oh, wow, I can go to college or I can have this path or I can have this passion.”

What I’ve seen is, that it helps those students be more comfortable in a school setting because they’re extending the amount of time they’re with us [during Abundant Life tutoring hours], and so school is safe, and it’s comfortable, and they can be who they are with us. That could mean that we still see some challenging behaviors or things, but it’s because they’re so comfortable with us, and you all help to perpetuate that idea of comfort, but also still have that expectation for kids. It’s not just a free-for-all all, and you can do whatever- you all [tutoring participants] take care of the spaces you’re in, and still abide by the expectations like you would anywhere else. That’s helpful for them to see and keep those lessons that we’re also trying to teach, all of those other soft skills, and translate those out in the community, and out to their homes, and their interactions with one another.

It [tutoring] builds their confidence in those academic skills because, in the classroom where there are anywhere from 17 to 21 kids, that can be a scarier environment to ask for help. But when they’re one-on-one with a tutor and they’re finding success and they’re getting that immediate response of, “You got this, keep going,” and I’m sure you all have seen they’re facing like, “I can do this.” That helps all of us. I tell the kids all the time, “I only work with smart kids, every kid in this building is smart kids. I’m going to be old one day, and I’m going to need people to take care of me, and I only allow smart people to take care of me. And that’s what we’re going to do- I need good people, and I need smart people.” They really take that and they run with it and that kind of partnership makes it so much easier for us because we know that kids have a safe space to go after school where they’re loved, where their needs are taken care of, and where you all can connect those other pieces with them.

On a side note: The fact that at the root of what you do, there is a faith-based component that leads you and calls you to this work is just that much more exciting and exhilarating for me as a person of faith where it’s seeing how you live and play out those values with students and find those natural connections and ways to engage with them about their faith is incredible. You guys can do it in ways that I can’t necessarily do explicitly but try to do implicitly but you can do more of the explict, which is great for the kids as well.”

Because of the wonderful relationship that Abundant Life has built and maintained with Johnson Elementary School and its staff, we can continue to provide on-site tutoring for the families in our community. Thank you, Johnson Elementary School Team, for your endless support over the years. We look forward to continuing on our foundation and learning from each other.

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