Homework Clubs: My Happy Place!

We started this program in 2016 supporting 72 students from kindergarten through high school. That first year we thought that we would only have to provide our younger students with the resources they needed to be able to begin the school year—primarily a backpack full of required school supplies. However, we soon began to learn about the many barriers that would keep these younger students from succeeding in the classroom. Some of these barriers included a lack of food in the home, no transportation, lack of access to medical care leading to excessive absences, and more. We also learned that many of these young students had nobody in their home to provide them with the ongoing academic support and resources needed to succeed in school.

So, in year two we opened our first homework club. This club was staffed by a teacher and teaching assistant who provided our grade school students with the daily academic resources and support they needed to succeed in the classroom. During my early visits to this first club, I had an experience that left me in awe of the impact these clubs could have on the kids we serve.

Jessica’s Story: Jessica was 9 years and, although she was in 4th grade, because of a challenging and unstable home life she was not yet able to read or write. Consequently, she had been told she was at risk of not being able to move onto the next grade level.

When I first visited with Jessica at her homework club, she told me that she was “stupid” because all the other kids in her class could read, and she could not. I, of course, explained to her that she was not “stupid” but simply had not yet had the chance to learn how to read. I told her if she would keep coming to homework club, she would see how smart she really is.

A few weeks later when I arrived at the Club Jessica was standing at the front of the class facing the other students. The teacher announced that she had a surprise for me, and Jessica proceeded to open a small early reader book and read it aloud to all of us. As soon as she finished reading all the kids jumped up and cheered for her and when I glanced at the teacher, she had tears streaming down her face. Jessica then ran up to me, gave me a big hug and said “Tia Katy, yo soy inteligente!” (I am smart)—and that is when my tears started!

I will never forget that moment and it is one that I think of often. This experience showed me what is possible when we make a relatively small investment in providing kids with the consistent academic resources and support not available in their homes.

It is hard to believe that today we support more than 800 students and operate five homework clubs throughout the community. I am so grateful to my local team and our many supporters on both sides of the border who have joined us in committing to providing a path out of poverty through education for so many young people. I am also very excited to share that this next school year we will be offering the opportunity for volunteers from the U.S. help teach English at one of our homework clubs on Saturdays.

You can make a one time or recurring tax-deductible donation to help us provide young people in this community with access to education at www.esperanca.org/mexico. For more information about volunteering contact me at kathleen@esperanca.org