By Janice Elizabeth Berte, Contributing Writer
On a sunny afternoon in Natick, several middle school students converge in a large room and gain self-confidence, learn new skills, and improve their self-image. The place is called Kids Connect. This nonprofit organization is a tutoring resource center for children to achieve higher grades and excel in their classrooms.
Debra Sayre, owner and program director of Kids Connect, started this business in 1999. Sayre has a masters of education degree, and is a social worker with a long history of working with children and adults with drug addiction and behavioral issues. When she moved to Natick, she noticed there was a need for children to find a safe place to hang out, but also wanted to create a tutoring facility that provided educational tools for the improvement of students’ grades.
“My vision was to provide children in all grades in the community with access to creative, individualized tutoring in a variety of subjects. I believe that children who are secure in their ability to learn have better emotional resiliency and become more self-confident throughout their lives,” Sayre said.
Once she opened her doors, a wide variety of young people came, including children of immigrants, single-parent homes, low-income families and affluent backgrounds. At the center, the teachers sit down with their students to determine what their needs are and create a plan to achieve better grades. Many of these kids need to pass courses to graduate or simply to receive encouragement and guidance.
Kids Connect is open from 2:30 to 8 p.m., but it remains open if a student needs to complete their session. They serve children in grades 1-12 focusing on math, language arts, chemistry, geometry, algebra and physics. The rate is free to $60 per hour depending on the families’ income, and scholarships are available. The center collaborates with several schools and other agencies in the town to enhance the educational needs of Natick’s youth. Sixty-five students come through these doors per week, and no child is left behind.
Sayre has continued to follow the lives of her past students. Some of have become truck drivers, one an assistant football coach, and one attended graduate school. Her love and passion for her students has continued to grow over the years and the children have benefitted from her commitment.