The Wesley Community Service Center Provides Tutoring and More

Latarisha Beamon was determined to help her daughter, Meliyah, improve at math. The 12-year-old girl struggled, and Beamon believed a tutor would ensure her daughter didn’t fall behind. A friend from church told her that the Wesley Community Service Center offers free tutoring services. Beamon signed up Meliyah and saw her daughter’s grade go up.

Renyatta Banks, Executive Director at the Wesley Center

“The Wesley Center is a place to go for parents to get help,” Beamon said. “For me, it meant not having to readjust my budget to hire a tutor to help my child.”

Meliyah said she liked the tutoring program and became less frustrated while doing math problems. “They helped me with my homework, explained why I got things wrong, helped me practice,” she said.

The one-on-one tutoring program had a waitlist. In 2021, the center received a $30,000 grant over three years from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation to expand the program from 43 students each year to 75. It also received a $7,000 grant from the Community Leadership Partners giving circle.

“The grant has truly enabled us to grow the program by hiring more certified teachers,” said Executive Director Renyatta L. Banks. “We’re able to buy the things we need, making sure teachers have the technology they need.”

“We are a wraparound program,” Banks said. “People can get a little bit of this and a little bit of that and leave here feeling fulfilled.”

While Meliyah has finished her tutoring sessions, her family’s involvement with the center continues. Wanting to give back, mother and daughter occasionally help hand out food at the center’s food pantry on Saturdays. The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore designated Wesley as its Portsmouth hub.

“I just want people to know how great the Wesley Center is,” Meliyah’s mother said. “It is such a vital resource center of the community of Portsmouth.”

During the pandemic, students have been participating in virtual tutoring sessions. The plan is to return to in-person sessions in the future.

The center was founded in 1937 in Portsmouth to address community needs and social issues, and it serves a majority of People of Color. It is one of 30 Black-led nonprofits supported by the community foundation with a grant from the Black Community Partnership Fund, which was launched with a $1 million gift from Facebook. In addition to tutoring, the center’s services include food distribution, mental health referrals, a community clothes closet, summer STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programming, city jail ministry, and senior support programs.

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