After School Homework Program

After School Hmework Program at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity, Brooklyn

By Catherine Kohn

The children enter the basement hall and form a line to hang up their coats, use the bathroom and wash their hands. “Good afternoon,” they each say in greeting before racing to the long table at the edge of the room where they eat a healthy snack and chatter excitedly to their friends. When finished they settle into folding chairs at tables scattered throughout the big room, open their backpacks, pull out their homework and books and get ready to work. It's now officially homework time at the Church of the Nativity on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn.

From kindergarten through fifth grade, 54 children regularly attend the free after school homework program at the church. Begun eight years ago by Denise Washington, it focuses on providing supervision and tutoring to children from the public school next door every school day from 2:30 to 6 p.m.

Compton Noble, one of the volunteers who pick the students up from school and walks them to the church, said many of the children come from families where parents are working long hours, or are single parents, or whose family members speak other languages and so they need a place to help them maintain their school progress. Math is of special concern, he said. In addition to homework, however, they also help the children learn good habits (hand washing, for example), manners, self-discipline and organizational skills.

Washington said she quickly realized after starting the program that she was going to need help to make sure the program was staffed each and every day, so the call was put out to members of the church for assistance. One especially valuable addition was Dr. Daphne Persico, who has a PhD in education. She works one-on-one to help the children improve their academic skills.

“Parents rely on us and depend on us. The teachers at the school have told us how much they appreciate what we do. We are really appreciated by the community,” said Washington.

Prior to receiving the grant from Episcopal Ministries the program was run on donations and by Washington herself, but without a better source of funding the program cannot reach its long-term goal of following these children through high school. Washington is especially concerned about maintaining the children’s math skills so that they will be prepared for college. By offering homework and tutoring through later grades, the program can help to ensure the continued success of the students. This will require obtaining tutors and helpers who can provide assistance with more advanced work.

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