Elliot Park community benefits from Homework Help nights

Freshman Jasmine Brandon (left) helps at the newly formed Homework Help night at the Elliot Park Recreational Center on Tuesday. Homework Help night was founded by Elliot Park United a NCU student organization directed by Senior Rebecca Thomas. Homework Help Night meets every Tuesday night from 6:30-8 p.m. Photo by Erin Rustad.

Weekly Homework Help nights, an initiative for North Central students to provide tutoring, support and relationship building for children, adolescents and even adults in the Elliot Park neighborhood, began on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Students and community members meet weekly from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Elliot Park Recreational Center.

Senior Rebecca Thomas, a social work major and journalism minor, initiated the idea through her role as director of Elliot Park United, a student organization with an external ministry focus.

“Elliot Park is such a transient community with a lot of transitional housing,” Thomas said. “Homework Help offers structure that kids don’t always have at home.”

Besides specific help on homework assignments, Elliot Park children enjoy fun and relationship-building activities with any of the 10-15 students who volunteer regularly. Together they play basketball, ping-pong and pool, make slime and other crafts, color and enjoy getting to know one another.

“Any North Central student who volunteers can explore how their major can be used in a community,” Thomas said, encouraging all students to become a benefactor in the community in which they live.

Newmann Thomas, the recreational facilities director for Elliot Park, quickly became Rebecca Thomas’s point of contact in planning the Homework Help nights. Newmann Thomas, who has a niece and two children of his own attending Homework Help, appreciates the support from North Central students.

“My favorite part of the Homework Help nights is seeing the youth [of the community] interacting with other people,” Newmann Thomas said. “It makes everyone more cultured by being around other personalities, which better prepares them for life.”

Of the North Central students who regularly volunteer at Homework Help nights, majors vary from youth development to education to social work and even mathematics. Freshman Jasmine Brandon, an early childhood education major, enjoys seeing the growth the students make throughout her time volunteering.

“I enjoy working with the little kids,” Brandon said. “I love helping them learn and achieve what they believe they can achieve.”

Recent graduate Michelle McKinley has been volunteering for Homework Help nights through her participation with the Antioch Initiative. Of the four pillars of the Antioch Initiative – Pray, Give, Go, Know – this volunteer time is an aspect of the pillar Go, where students must reach out to the community two times per month.

“I love getting to know the kids,” McKinley said. “I love talking to them and seeing their personalities and what they’re like.”

Junior Aaron Van Gorkom, a children and family ministry major, enjoys supporting Rebecca Thomas, a friend of his.

“The people who are involved are good people,” Van Gorkom said, “and I want to further their dream and help them succeed.”

Whether the reason is for a class requirement or their own desire, Rebecca Thomas encourages anybody to volunteer if they are interested in giving back to the community and being a positive role model for kids in the Elliot Park neighborhood.

About the author: Erin Rustad