In 1989, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Rector Duncan Gray III had a vision. He and other members of St. Peter’s visited a tutoring program in Clarksdale, Miss., and brought the idea of starting a similar program back to church leaders. As a result, the program launched in the fall of 1990 with the hiring of its first executive director. Though launched and supported by local churches, the program is not faith-based.
Leap Frog was housed in several Oxford locations over the years, including St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, The Orchard, Oxford School District locations, and more. Currently located in St. Peter’s and nearby Oxford-University United Methodist Church, the program looks to return to an Oxford School District building in the fall of 2020.
Since beginning in 1990, Leap Frog has had six executive directors. Kris Mink was the founding executive director and served for three years. Five other directors have followed: Rosie McDavid (1993-1998), Barbara Lowe (1998-2003), Anne Marie Ross (2003-2006), Teresa Adams (2006-2021), and Whitney Sweeney (current).
Originally, the program served 16-second-graders from the Oxford Public Schools when it launched. Since then, the program has grown.
- In 1991, Oxford first-graders were added so the program grew to served 20 students.
- By 1996 the program served 41-first- and second-graders and included Lafayette County Public Schools.
- Oxford-University United Methodist Church joined as a second host-site for the program and 10 student students were added in February 1997.
- The program grew to 90 students in the spring of 1999 and remained at that level until 2012.
- In 2012, Executive Director Teresa Adams and Assistant Director Kathryn Shirley expanded the program to serve an additional 50 students to include third-graders.
Since the program’s goal is to improve literacy among first- through third-graders, Leap Frog strives to measure that progress. This is challenging as the school districts utilize different tests and those tests change over the years.
- In 2008, student data was collected to begin monitoring the progress of students in the program.
- Students’ STAR test scores were used to track reading levels beginning in 2012.
- In 2017, with the help of both school districts and parent consent, student progress is tracked and monitored through existing testing within the school districts. However, raw test scores are not a direct measure. Volunteer Dr. Ruth O’Dell, a former elementary administrator and counselor, reviews scores to look at the amount of progress each student makes.
Leap Frog’s Future
With the arrival of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, the Leap Frog Program faced a dual challenge: no volunteers and no students. Program leaders leaped into action to find other ways to service students. As a result, the program continues to support students’ literacy skill advancement. Where possible, students with internet access will connect with their tutors with video conferencing. Leap Frog is shipping learning materials directly to students without internet access.
In the fall of 2021, Leap Frog will be moving into the Oxford School District building (the old elementary school) so all students can be housed in a single location. We are beyond thrilled about this opportunity. This will enable us to serve students better and run more efficiently.