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Reaching Out to Kids Through Homework Help

Read about how Central Church of Christ in Findley, Ohio is reaching children and families-one school assignment at a time.

“If our church ceased to exist tomorrow, would we be missed in our community?” asked Scott Brewster of Central Church of Christ in Findlay, Ohio.

That question had plagued this pastor so much that it took him out the church doors and into the surrounding neighborhood.

“We want to show our city that we are like Jesus,” Brewster says. “We are for them, and we want them to be successful. We want them to know him, but first we have to gain their trust. One way to their hearts is through helping the most important people in their lives-their children.”

As Brewster talked to the community, one man’s response of “you could help my kids with their homework” made all the difference.

• • •

Central Church of Christ’s staff brainstormed ideas that would allow them to serve area families with homework assistance.

“We wanted to make a difference, and the after-school homework assistance program was something that wasn’t being done in Findlay,” explains Deb Troyer, Christian education director at Central Church of Christ. “We knew that it was something that we, as a church, could do for the neighborhood.”

Thus the program Homework Central was created.

Homework Central Structure Monday through Thursday, the church opens its doors to Lincoln Elementary School’s kindergarten through fifth-grade students between the hours of 3:30 and 5 p.m. The children eat a healthy snack; receive homework help; and participate in literacy, science, and creative arts activities. The program is nondenominational and operated completely by trained volunteers. It’s free of charge to the families of the neighborhood public school.

When the pilot program began in January 2003, Homework Central served 10 children. By the close of the 2003-2004 school year, more than 53 students had participated in the program. And the majority of those intended to use Homework Central’s assistance in the upcoming school year.

“One of the major accomplishments of Homework Central is that it has grown since its conception,” says Connie Ferguson, program coordinator of Homework Central. “This has been primarily achieved by word of mouth of the students themselves. Principal [Richard] Dillon of Lincoln Elementary has shared with us that the most ringing endorsement of our program is that the students want to be at Homework Central.”

Homework Central Goals Homework Central strives to improve the student’s academic achievement by providing relationships with caring, competent, and consistent tutors. Homework Central also provides enriching learning activities in a safe and healthy environment.

“In today’s fast-paced world, families are finding it difficult to juggle jobs, kids’ activities, and school and home responsibilities. Homework Central’s mission is to reduce the stress and time pressures that are eroding the quality of family life,” Troyer says. “It helps when the homework is done and children are getting reading help. It gives families more time to be a family.”

The church formed the program with the understanding that everyone, whether parents or not, influences the children within their sphere of contact. Each one of us was shaped by adult influences in our lives from infancy throughout childhood and into our teenage years. Whether our experience was one of joy or abuse, we were affected by it. Homework Central’s volunteers have accepted the responsibility of sometimes being the only positive influence in a Homework Central child’s life.

“Some of these children come from situations where at times we’re the only adult one-on-one attention they receive,” Ferguson explains.

Homework Central wants to meet the children’s overall developmental needs by building a strong sense of self through meaningful relationships with kids’ peers and the tutors, as well as opportunities to experience success by participating in fun literacy activities.

Teachers have seen a positive change in students’ performance since Homework Central opened its doors to Lincoln Elementary, according to Principal Richard Dillon.

“The students thrive on individual attention, and they come to school with completed homework-that makes everyone happy,” he says.

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