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New Teach My People director focusing on greater involvement

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Eric Spatz was working as a youth pastor at Pawleys Island Community Church when he first became involved with Teach My People about two years ago.

"I started volunteering in the middle school program on Tuesdays, jumping in and helping out with homework," he said. "I just fell in love with it."

Spatz, 36, was so impressed by the work the program was doing, he wanted to become even more a part of it. So he left his job with the church to become Teach My People’s new executive director.

His first day on the job was Jan. 1.

"I did it because I believe in this organization," Spatz said. "We are seeing results already and the potential for the future is limitless."

Teach My People is a Christian nonprofit that has provided academic and spiritual guidance to children and teens in the Pawleys Island area since 1999. As an example of the difference the group makes, Spatz pointed to report cards that recently went out to students in its intermediate school program.

Of 30 students enrolled in the program, 18 made the honor roll, receiving all A's and B's on their report cards. Ten others received another kind of academic award for the grading period.

"Part of what we're doing is giving students a great chance of being successful in the future," Spatz said.

Spatz, who has been a full-time youth minister for 13 years, lives in Murrells Inlet with his wife, Erin, and their four children, ages 2-9.

A native of Delaware, he and his family moved to Waccamaw Neck from Stuart, Fla., six years ago. They were looking for a community better suited to raising a family, he recalled, and knew as soon as they got their first look at the area that it was where they were supposed to be.

After five and a half years working with teens at the community church, Spatz said the transition to Teach My People was a natural one because of the spiritual nature of the group's work, as well as the church's support of the group and its program.

In his position at the helm, part of Spatz's mission will be to increase public awareness about Teach My People. Folks know the group's name and they know where its facilities are on Waverly Road, but in general, they aren't familiar with its mission and accomplishments.

Spatz wants to change that and hopes that by communicating the group's work, he can build community interest and get more people to invest themselves.

Teach My People always welcomes volunteers, but Spatz would also like to see the group partner with businesses and other organizations to help students in its high school program learn about jobs in fields they might be interested in working in.

There are 86 first- through 11th-graders enrolled in Teach My People. The group will have its first 12th-grade class next year.

Students enter the program, which started in 1999, as first-graders and stay until graduation. That's one of the things that makes Teach My People unique, Spatz said.

"We want to know who our kids are and walk with them from their first year through their senior year," Spatz said.

In addition to spreading the agency's message, Spatz will be dedicated to implementing a "pretty aggressive" three-year strategic plan approved by the group's board of directors.

The plan outlines academic and spiritual growth objectives for students in each grade level. It is designed to help students meet or exceed academic standards and develop good study habits, as well as study scripture and apply what they learn to everyday life.

Spatz said he is looking forward to seeing the plan move forward and being part of a program that plays such a vital role in the community and the lives of students and their families.

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