By DARRELL DAVIS
Every Monday and Tuesday North Central welcomes neighborhood students from varying ethnic backgrounds into its Mansion for tutoring sessions with North Central students.
From 4:45-6 p.m., tutored students receive help with homework and emphasis is also placed on sharpening their reading skills. Students who read at least 20 books receive prizes for their achievement. The sessions end with art projects and games.
The program serves up to 21 children and teens from the multicultural Elliot Park community each week. It is open to anyone and currently consists of Somali, African American and Native American students.
Professor of Intercultural Studies, Nan Muhovich, who is involved with the program, said that faculty prayed about using the Mansion to bless the community, and intercultural studies students initiated the tutoring endeavor.
Randi Anaya, an intercultural studies major that graduated from North Central last fall, talked about the inception of the program.
“The neighborhood families knew us before we started tutoring. We just saw a need with these students [regarding] help with schoolwork, and students here at North Central needed ministry hours in teaching or cross cultural studies. It benefits everyone, and the Mansion was a great place for everything to come together.”
Rick Anaya, a senior intercultural studies major, also talked about the relationships that inspired the program.
“A lot of us met at an Elliot Park bonfire that North Central sponsored, and that’s how Randi [Anaya] got to know a lot of the families. So the primary relationship we first had was that of being neighbors.”
Randi Anaya said some North Central students have questions about working with kids from other cultures.
“I’ve heard students ask if these kids speak English and a lot of people think there are a lot of barriers to overcome. But you can communicate with them because they do speak English. They were born and raised here and go to American schools.”
Rick Anaya added that the students are familiar with American pop culture.
“They were talking about Chris Brown and Rihanna breaking up. And they know more about my cell phone than I do.”
Jess Lehman, a junior intercultural studies major, discussed her experience tutoring in the program.
“It has been so rewarding to see how some of the kids have changed so much this year from receiving the one-on-one attention – they just soak it up. Whenever I hear the kids shout ‘Jess,’ and run up to me and plow their little bodies into me, I thank Jesus for bringing them into my life. “
Randi Anaya explained that while the tutoring program aims to foster relationships with students and their families, there is not an agenda to promote Christianity or seek converts.
Instead, said Rick Anaya, the emphasis is on demonstrating love for neighbors.
“There is a mutual relationship there. We show love for them by helping with homework or taking them to wrestling or whatever, and [the students’ parents] love us by letting us hang out with their kids or giving us food. We’re trying to honor God with what we do while respecting the differences in culture or religion that may be there.”
Muhovich also stressed the importance of relationships that the program helps to cultivate.
“Instead of relating as Christians and Muslims, it is more like, ‘I’m Dr. Nan and you’re Abdi.’ So we get to be friends. I’m hoping that we can develop lifelong relationships with these kids and families, and it is already starting to happen.”
The Elliot Park neighborhood tutoring program can always use more male tutors, since there are many young boys who need help with their homework. For more information or to get involved with the program, contact professor Muhovich.