Church’s Homework Club helps young students find academic success

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A volunteer helps a student with reading/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS
A volunteer helps a student with reading/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

SPOKANE VALLEY — At the sound of the bell, 16 first- and second-graders bounce through the doors of Broadway Elementary School and line up behind the men donning neon yellow and orange vests. They walk behind them, two-by-two, the .3 miles to Spokane Valley Community of Christ.

Inside Janice Townsend and several other grinning volunteers are waiting, holding up bright orange rulers with the student’s nametags hanging from them.

After a short bathroom break, the students line up two-by-two again and sing, “God is so good…I’ll thank him now, he’s so good to me.”

“Amen!,” one boy shouts, inspiring a chuckle from the volunteers.

Then they march downstairs for Homework Club where healthy snacks, a puppet show and volunteer tutors await.

The church is completing its fifth year of Homework Club, a program designed to assist select Broadway students with their reading, writing and math homework.

Townsend, Homework Club director, said when the congregation moved to its location on Broadway Avenue, right down the street from the school, it seemed like a perfect marriage. School Counselor Judy Polley (also a member of the church) and leaders from the congregation put their heads together and decided to offer a tutoring program.

Judy Townsend leads a puppet show/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS
Judy Townsend leads a puppet show/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

The program is broken into three sessions — fall, winter and spring. Tutoring is available for students in kindergarten through fifth grades. The current session, which ends next week, is for first- and second-graders. There are 16 students and 25 volunteers. Volunteers, Townsend noted, includes tutors, snack providers, security, assistants, substitutes and walkers. Homework Club meets twice a week.

“There have been so many studies about what a difference it (tutoring) makes in the lives of kids. We’re getting a lot of positive feedback from the school,” Townsend said. “And it gives them a safe place to be where people care. We have really dedicated people who are committed to this and believe in it.”

“We’ve seen the kids grow as much as five reading levels and as little as one,” Polley said. “We’ve seen some who are so darn close it hurts, and by the time they're done, they’re at the right level.”

She said the small group settings and one-on-one tutoring makes a big impact.

Teachers select which students to send to the club, then give tutors information about the curriculum, homework and the reading, writing and math levels of each student.

Homework Club is funded through donation. In August, when summer school ends, the congregation will provide free lunches, three days a week, to the students.

For information about the program call the church office at (509) 535-2513.

More photos available on our Facebook page.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Journalism Instructor at Washington State University.

She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and for the Religion News Service.

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