Twice a month at Holy Cross Catholic School in Springfield, PA, a group of students, teachers, and high school volunteers join forces to tackle one of history’s most enduring struggles: getting homework done.
The Homework Club after-school program offers elementary students additional help from teachers and student volunteers from Bonner & Prendergast Catholic High School. The club primarily aims to help students better understand concepts covered in class. But, students and administrators say Homework Club also shows its participants the value of working together ¾ and giving back.
A typical Homework Club session hosts around 25 Holy Cross students, aided by two to four Bonner & Prendie volunteers. Open to first through eighth graders, the club provides a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere where students can collaborate and get personalized guidance.
For fourth grader, Ophelia Dong, the program bridges the gap between learning concepts in class and remembering how to apply them on her own. Fourth grader, Aniyah Hatcher-Scott, says the extra help has raised her grades. And fellow fourth grader, Erin Saye, just enjoys the chance to work with “the older kids.”
Feedback from parents has also been positive. For parents who have struggled to understand newer approaches to teaching math, the club is a welcome opportunity for children to learn from peers.
But for Holy Cross principal Maureen Ward, who began the program in October 2017, Homework Club also takes on a deeper significance.
“It’s special to see former Holy Cross students coming back to be a part of it,” Ward says. “My favorite part is the interaction of the older students with the younger students.”
One of those returning students is Devon Gannon, now a junior at Bonner & Prendie.
“I attended Holy Cross and loved it there,” Gannon says, “so I was super excited for the opportunity to go back, see my old teachers, and help out.”
The collaboration began after a chance conversation between Ward and Bonner & Prendie admissions counselor Sr. Anne Christine Kalbron. She referred Ward to Matt McShane, Bonner & Prendie’s Community Service Club moderator and member of the mathematics department.
McShane says the program has been a learning experience for both the students and their older tutors.
“I’ve seen the student volunteers gain a greater appreciation of the teaching profession, as well as a greater understanding of patience and kindness as they work with younger kids,” McShane says. “It also gives Holy Cross students the opportunity to see older students from a local school doing good in the community.”
The club’s leaders hope to expand the program to more Holy Cross students and Bonner & Prendie volunteers. Coordinating schedules and participants’ transportation has proven to be the biggest challenge. But participants say the reward of seeing students grasp new concepts is well worth the effort.
“I helped one student who kept saying her addition homework was too hard, and that she couldn’t do it,” Gannon says, “But I kept encouraging her, and it finally clicked. She was so proud of herself, she started telling everyone around her that now she knew how to do it.”