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Aphril Jimenez, Past Students, Spring 2009

Volunteers make homework fun

By Aphril Jimenez

Students might not agree on their favorite subject in school, but they usually know what they like the least: homework. But that concept is changing for some San Diego children, thanks to the volunteers working with the Mira Mesa Homework Helpers, a program affiliated with the San Diego Public Libraries and the IELTS essay correction.

Every Wednesday night volunteers from all walks of life gather at the Mira Mesa Library to help kids have fun with a task many would rather forget. The Homework Helpers assist students with simple tasks like helping them with their reading assignments to solving high school science and math problems.

During the 90 minutes that students and helpers work together, homework stops being a tedious task and becomes a fun and interactive activity that the students seem to enjoy as much as the volunteers. Some students even have their favorite tutor and they have silently reserved their favorite spot inside the conference room.

For these students, Wednesday night is not homework night, but the night they get to spend with their friends while they do their homework.

And it seems like the volunteers have as much fun, if not more, helping out San Diego’s children and youth with their homework and education.

“Aside from the fact that it’s a lot of fun, I really think it is worthwhile helping the kids,” volunteer Linda Sharp said. “I think it’s important for the children to have somebody they can go for assistance and help them with their homework. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids and it is fun for me.”

Other volunteers like Julia Longenecker also use this opportunity as a way to break away from the monotony and the problems of everyday life.

“I would definitely recommend this program because the kids are eager to learn and it’s just nice to take a break from work, which in my case I’m a tax accountant, so it’s not a very giving career,” Longenecker said.

I know what Longenecker means. While on assignment for this story, I left my role as a reporter and helped a student who was struggling with his Spanish vocabulary homework. It was definitely an eye opening and fulfilling experience. The hands on approach not only allowed me to investigate and report on the program, but it also made me forget about my day’s shortcomings. As a tutor, I could just focus on helping somebody out by sharing the greatest gift of all, knowledge.

Many of the parents who bring their children to the program do not speak English as their first language, so helping with homework is difficult for them. Having a free tutor makes a big difference.

“A lot of the parents really value education even though they might not be proficient in English they still value education for their children,” said Steve Meduna, a Homework Helpers team leader.

Some of the students’ parents are also part of the English Speaking Club, a program in Mira Mesa that helps teach English skills to adults. They not only want their children to have a great education but they also want to set an example for them, said Volunteer San Diego Program Manager Debbie Krakauer. In fact, they value education so much that some of them even bring their children to the weekly sessions during the summer.

“A lot of the school systems in California are year round schools, so there are some students that are pretty much all year round,” Meduna said. “A lot of the parents will bring them even if their kids are not in school they’ll bring them to this program and they’ll have like little workbooks for them to work on.”

The Homework Helpers show up on a voluntary basis. Each week, between 15-30 students attend, but sometimes there are not enough volunteers to tutor everyone individually, according to Meduna, so the program is always looking for more people to help.

“This program has opportunity for anyone at any educational level,” Meduna said, “because the program is for kindergarten all the way through 12 grade, so the minimum that’s required is that you’re able to read a Dick and Jane book with a kindergarten student, it pretty much entails all different aspects of education.”

Volunteers don’t need to have any previous tutoring experience to participate in the project. Some of the requirements for this one-time project include:
• Join the Flexible Volunteer Program
• You must be at least 14 years old to volunteer
• Turn in a waiver form if you or your guest is below 18 years of age
• If you are signing up guest or a team, please notify the team leader in advance and limit the size of the group to five volunteers
• E-mail that week’s team leader on the Mira Mesa Homework Helpers page to participate in the project

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