By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald
Margaret Tucker has taken dozens of pictures this summer of the children and young teens she and her sister teach at the Moss Rose Community Center's summer camp.
On Friday, Margaret snapped yet more photos that she plans to give to the students as her sister, Lorraine Tucker, led them through their final evaluation in Tae Kwon Do. Pairs of students in ascending sizes showed off their best moves - in quick kicks, punches and defenses - and received a certificate for their belts.
Lorraine, a retired civil engineer who teaches self-defense, has come to the Killeen Housing Authority's community center once a week this summer to teach campers the basics of the martial art.
While Lorraine worked on their discipline and confidence in physical ways, Margaret, a "semi-retired" teacher, worked on their minds. She came twice a week to teach guided and interactive reading classes to around 30 children of different ages and reading levels, both for fun and to prepare the students for school in the fall.
The sisters said it was luck - and maybe providence - that led them to Moss Rose in the first place.
"Killeen has pockets that you'd never know existed until you ask the right questions," Lorraine said.
Making a match
Margaret had struggled to start a summer program where she could tutor children in reading while they also learned about sports and nutrition.
She was searching for space to hold a small tutoring class when Killeen's Community Development Division Program Manager Cinda Hayward told her to talk to a director at Moss Rose.
Hayward said because her department works with grant funding, she keeps tabs on many of the entities in the city. Directing Margaret to Moss Rose seemed like a good fit.
"It's not often you have someone who is so ambitious to volunteer to do something they used to get paid for," Hayward said. "It shows real devotion to the development of kids and our future generation of leaders."
On Thursday, Margaret started her class with "cool" reading, guiding a group of younger students decked out in sunglasses through a picture book. The children were paired up, following along actively and helping each other read in a circle around Margaret.
"We live with a generation of millennial children, they need interactive. You can't expect them to just sit still and read a book," she said.
For the community center, having trained volunteers to lead organized classes has been a boon, said Janice Taylor, resident services director for the housing authority. Taylor granted the necessary approval to bring both Tuckers into the camp.
"Anything to engage the kids in something positive, it's a no-brainer," she said.
In addition to the Tucker sisters' classes, the camp's students go on historical field trips, have access to computers and board games and daily lunch. Taylor said she believes it is important to give the children some structure to their summer.
"Whether they live in public housing or not, we need to make sure our kids have a fun and safe healthy summer," she said. "And these (field trips) are things they'll remember. Hanging on the street corner, that's not something to remember."
The reading class is something Taylor was particularly glad to have.
Taylor said several of her campers were behind in their reading skills and needed a fun way to stay engaged. The progress she saw in one student who was particularly far behind his grade level amazed her.
"I was like, is this the same child who began summer camp? It's his self-esteem that has gone up too, along with his interest in reading," she said.
Tucker, who is dyslexic, said she has a passion for getting children to read, particularly when they think they can't because of disabilities or are just lagging behind. She used games, structure and a guiding hand when leading her classes through reading and vocabulary.
"I teach the way I learn, because I know I have a disability," she said. "And I believe that every child has the ability to learn."
In the fall, Taylor plans to have Margaret continue tutoring students at Moss Rose Community Center, and is looking for funds to continue offering Tae Kwon Do as well.
Contact Jackie Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcityeditor.