the bistro off broadway
From left: Empowering Darke County Youth president Eric Fee, Kiwanis president Mike Snyder
and Empowering Program Coordinator Bob Robinson.

Empowering president talks about helping at-risk kids

“As many as one out of 10 Darke County students don’t graduate on time. Many of them simply drop out of school,” said Eric Fee, president of a new organization, Empowering Darke County Youth. The local business owner of Oliver Floyd and Braund Pope Funeral Homes talked to Kiwanis of Greenville members and guests about these challenges at their weekly meeting July 13.

“That’s what got to me,” he said. “One out of ten. While much has been done to try to help these students, not much has been done to work with them where it begins… at the K-3 grade level.”

Fee noted students who can’t read at their grade level by the third grade are five times more likely to be high school dropouts. Even if they graduate, he added, they’re five times less likely to be ready for college.

“When Bob (Robinson) came to me about this, I had to get involved,” Fee continued. “He asked if I’d be willing to serve as president and… well… I said yes. We formed our board and started our summer tutoring program to help at-risk kids. We have seven tutors working with 42 students right now.”

Robinson, Empowering’s Program Coordinator and one of the tutors, fielded many of the questions from Kiwanis members. All tutors have had background checks and are experienced or certified at some level. Some tutors receive payment, but all involved have invested a huge amount of volunteer time… at this point totaling more than 300 hours.

Robinson also noted some of the successes he has had working with students over the years. “We go to the basics – reading, spelling and math – and it works,” he said. While the focus is K-4, where the problem starts, tutors work with kids going into fifth, sixth, even the ninth grade, most of them struggling with math.

Fee told the group about Empowering’s plans for the fall: an after-school program at Edison State Community College, Darke County Campus. It will include one-on-one tutoring, homework assistance, mentoring and a safe place for kids whose parents work until 5 p.m. or later. The space has been offered by Edison DCC Dean and Kiwanian Board Member Chad Beanblossom, and is supported by Edison President Doreen Larson, who is on the Empowering Board of Directors.

“There will be considerable expense setting this up,” Fee said, adding that the program needs help from the community. Information can be obtained at or on its Facebook page: Empowering Darke County Youth.

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