Third grade students at J.L. Jones Elementary are getting a hand up as Shepherd’s Hut in Minden is sponsoring the class. The idea is to follow the class until they graduate in 2025, providing for the needs of the students, such as mentors, school clothes, supplies and funds for teachers to supplement their classrooms. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

Shepherd’s Hut in Minden is sponsoring the third grade class at J.L. Jones Elementary and will follow them through their high school career.

Pastor Sam Mims says the education system is in such a mess, the children are not getting what the need.

“Let’s help those teachers, let’s help those children, let’s help those schools,” he said. “We’re going to try to insure that those kids have what they need to get a good education.”

If a student needs a mentor, he says they will try to provide one of those; if they need school clothes or supplies, they will help try to get them what they need, Mims said.

“Not their wants, but whatever they need to make it through school,” he added.

The idea is to follow them throughout their school career until they graduate in 2025. He says while he and his congregation want to help all the schools and all the students, it’s simply not possible. So he asked his congregation to participate in adopting the third grade classes to do their part.

“This is to see if it works,” he said, “and if it works, then maybe some other church will adopt a class. If each church in Minden were to adopt a class, and just took care of that class, then all the schools’ needs would be met.”

Mims met with Jones principal Dusty Rowland last week about the idea, and she says she’s excited
about it.

“I’m excited,” she said. “We’re always glad to get support from our community. We’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of community support. Anytime we ask people in the community, whether it was to sponsor our sign or our teacher appreciation, or anything like that, we always have really good support. This happened out of the blue. I know that each year, that it will probably grow.”

Tikina Johnson, third grade teacher at Jones, is Mims’ contact person. Rowland says the third grade teachers will meet and assess the needs of their students this week.

“I am very blessed, because I have an outstanding faculty,” Rowland said. “I have outstanding teachers. My teachers are really going to look at what they think can help.”

Some of the challenges students are facing, she says, include the lack of funding, which hinders the manpower needed to teach students. Also challenging is the lack of funding for the arts and music, she said.

“Our schools can’t offer what some of the other districts and parishes offer like enrichment for our kids,” she said. “We can’t offer that just because of lack of funding.”

J.L. Jones is a Title I school, and Rowland plans to use some of that money for some type of enrichment for the students. Right now, the school has library and computer lab as well as social studies enrichment.

“Research shows that arts, music, enrichment helps students do better on tests,” she said. “A lot of it is because they want to come to school to do those things. They spend more time at school and not truant because they do have these activities for them.”

Mims says he also wants to see more parents involved in the parent/teacher organization as well. The PTO is more than just a fundraising arm for the schools, he said. He wants parents engaged in their children’s education and schools.

“We’re not going to just throw money at them,” he says. “Whatever these kids need, that’s what we’re going to do.”

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