Black History Month: Tutoring center chief Edna Runner inspires generations of Jupiter students
The Palm Beach Post | by Julius Whigham II | February 13, 2021
JUPITER — Edna Runner describes her reunions with former students as some of her favorite moments in the 20-plus years she has worked at the Jupiter after-school care center that bears her name.
Over the years, Runner, now the executive director of the Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center, has received visits from college graduates, new business owners and other adults who once were children in the after-school program.
“They always come back to visit,” she said. “When they’re grown, they come and see how we’ve changed, how we’ve improved … and they’re proud to be a part of the center.”
Pride was again on display recently as the center was recognized for its nearly 35 years of contributions to the Jupiter community. Palm Beach County Commissioner Maria Marino presented a proclamation to Runner on Feb. 5, prior to the center’s “Super Bowl” contest for kids at Jupiter Community Park.
In this 2018 photo Edna Runner greets children arriving to her namesake tutorial center in Jupiter. Richard Graulich
Runner said she was grateful for the recognition.
“It means that people really care and that they are concerned about after-school programs, and how it important it is for us to have an after-school program for kids, especially of low-income (homes),” she said.
A product of Limestone Creek
Founded in 1986 as the West Jupiter Tutorial Center, the center serves at-risk children in Jupiter and surrounding communities. It provides after-school care for up to 127 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, including tutorial instruction, music lessons, science classes and character-building activities.
Runner, 69, has been the center’s executive director since 2002, but her ties date back further to the Limestone Creek neighborhood north of Indiantown Road that the center calls home.
As a child, she relocated to the area with her family from South Carolina in 1955, when her father got a job working road construction on what would become Florida’s Turnpike.
Runner said the desire to teach and help children was instilled in her at an early age. As the fifth of eight siblings, she spent much of her time helping her younger siblings with their schoolwork.
“You know when you’re that middle-school kid in the family and you have siblings under you,” she said. “I enjoyed just being with and reading with my siblings.”
Children play football earlier this month at a super bowl party for the students from the Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center in Jupiter. The center offers a variety of after-school programs for at-risk children in the Jupiter area. Greg Lovett
Years later, she began her career in education as a teacher in the preschool program at Limestone Creek Elementary. Seeing a growing need for after-school services, Runner and others started a tutorial program at the Church of God in Jupiter, east of the center’s current home.
“We had a few concerned citizens,” she said. “We realized that a lot of kids in the area needed help with homework, and that’s how the center started.”
Linking children, families, generations
The center was moved to its current location on Church Street in 1993. It underwent an expansion in 2011 and was renamed after Runner.
Over the years, Runner has gotten to know “all the families, the grandparents and kids” in the community, with some of her former students now having children in the program.
Travis Conway, the tutorial center’s program director, is one of the former students who came back. Conway said Runner’s impact is one that has been felt not only at the tutorial center, but also in the community at large.
“If you look at all the students who basically grew up in this Limestone Creek community, they see Ms. Runner as a second mom. She really has a huge impact on this community. TRAVIS CONNWAY, PROGRAM DIRECTOR AT THE EDNA RUNNER TUTORIAL CENTER, ON ITS NAME SAKE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
“Without Ms. Runner, I don’t think Limestone Creek would look as positive as it is today,” he said. “If you look at all the students who basically grew up in this Limestone Creek community, they see Ms. Runner as a second mom. She really has a huge impact on this community.”
Reggie Scurry said Runner’s guidance helped put him on a path to college. Scurry, who played on three Division I-AA national championship football teams at Youngstown State University in Ohio, now works as a real estate agent.
“On the Limestone Creek community, her impact, it will be felt for decades,” he said. “I’m a person that I really, sitting here today, don’t know where I would be if she wouldn’t have stepped in. … She just knew how to speak to kids, especially boys, to get them to listen to her.”
Kids arrive by bus after their school day to the Edna Runner Tutorial Center in Jupiter in November 2018. Richard Graulich
During the past year the center, like many programs, has had to adapt to challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. When Palm Beach County schools opened with online classes in August, the center opened for about 50 students in need of reliable internet service.
In other cases, staff members went to students’ homes to help them with their schoolwork. The center returned to its traditional after-school role in September and is trying to help the 90 students currently in the program make up for lost time.
“We want to get our kids back to as close as we can to where they were,” Runner said. “They lost a lot of learning.”
Featured photo: Edna W. Runner has been operating the Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center in Jupiter, Florida, for 35 years on February 5, 2021. This year, 90 students have taken part of its program. Greg Lovett