Parkland Homework Club offers volunteer opportunity for students

Homework Club logoWEBDavid Saveanu

Staff Writer

Parkland’s Homework Club gives Parkland students the opportunity to volunteer as mentors and tutors to local kids at Garden Hills Elementary School down the road.

The program uses student volunteers to tackle the school’s problem with literacy. It gives the elementary school students a safe space to learn and progress after school ends.

Brian Nudelman, an English professor at Parkland, is the organizer of the homework club.

“The kids that we work with at Garden Hills are at least a grade level below where they’re supposed to be,” Nudelman said. “Sometimes two or three grade levels.”

He emphasizes the importance of volunteers in solving the problem Garden Hills Elementary has with literacy.

“With a college student reading books with the students, talking about them, re-reading them, we found it helps with the Garden Hills students’ literacy,” Nudelman said.

He goes on to explain the process of pairing Parkland and Garden Hills students and what is involved with the program.

“Teachers from Garden Hills recommend students who they feel would benefit from the program,” after which the selected students, who range from 3rd to 5th grade, spend an hour or two every week with their Parkland mentors. Many students get very comfortable with their mentors and begin “look[ing] forward” to the club meetings, partially because of this individual attention.

“Parkland students work one on one with the Garden Hill students,” explains Nudelman.

The club is convenient for Parkland students as well, with Garden Hills Elementary School being less than two miles away from the Parkland campus.

“It’s an easy way for Parkland students to do some volunteering: it’s geographically close, and a pretty well organized program,” Nudelman said. “It is a true collaboration between the schools.”

Parkland students do not have to be in education classes to volunteer; students from all study programs are invited to enlist in the program.

“Students in education classes, occupational therapy, media advertising, a variety of classes are encouraged to volunteer,” Nudelman said.

Nudelman started the club in 2007 with Lauren Smith, the community outreach coordinator, after simply deciding, “let’s have an after-school program,” he said.

The Homework Club meets twice a week, every Monday and Wednesday from 3–4 p.m.. Volunteers are encouraged to come twice a week, but are only required to commit once a week.

It works on a very organized, strict schedule to maximize the amount of time spent helping Garden Hills students. The school dismisses at 3 p.m., after which the students meet at the club where they begin with 15 minutes of “mindfulness,” which Nudelman describes as a time after the long school day where “both tutors, and the kids, depressurize for a little bit.”

The club then moves on to the reading, which is specifically structured to help the students. For 30-minutes Parkland volunteers read aloud to the Garden Hills student, before switching roles and talking about it. The last part of the day involves the volunteer helping the Garden Hills student with any homework they have.

Nudelman looks forward to more volunteers this year and encourages everyone in his classes to join.

All is needed of the volunteers is “commitment,” Nudelman says.

Nudelman says he needs volunteers that can uphold the once a week attendance requirement. Students must also pass a background check through the elementary school that can take up to a few weeks to process.

To get involved contact Brian Nudelman at bnudelman@parkland.edu or visit the table at the volunteer fair to learn more about the Homework Club. The fair will be held at the Student Union on Wednesday, Feb. 1 from 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m.