“We know that many families have struggled to help their children’s learning over the last year,” says Scott Hopkin, “and people in the St. Albans Church community wanted to offer support.” Since January, Hopkin has been the program coordinator of the solution St. Albans came up with: a free, virtual “homework club,” especially for newcomer and low-income families who might face language and affordability barriers to obtaining help for their children and youth through other services. Calling on his own six years of teaching experience, Hopkin has been in charge of recruiting and vetting volunteers from both the St. Albans community on King Edward and the St. Bernard parish in the south of Ottawa. He then matches them with families who have requested the service.
Even though the program is sponsored by two church communities, it is not exclusively for parishioners. “St. Albans is a very welcoming and inclusive community,” Hopkin hastens to add. “This program is open to everyone, even if they are not members of the parish.”
“We have a great group of volunteer tutors, ready to help students in grades 1 through 12,” Hopkin says. “All the adult volunteers go through a vulnerable sector police check to ensure safety.” Program volunteers offer their experience and their skills in different subjects, including multiple languages. “I was recently able to match a student with special needs with a volunteer who had experience in that field,” Hopkin is pleased to say.
“We’ve made contacts with a number of schools and have been able to help families in Sandy Hill, Lowertown and beyond,” he continues. “For the time being, however, the response to the program has been lower than expected. We recognize that it is challenging, especially for younger students, to spend so much time in front of a screen and that may be discouraging participation.” Given pandemic restrictions, help can only be offered online, but the hope is that contact between volunteers and students can be given in person in the future.
Asked what the role of a “homework club” might be when school is out, Hopkin explained that the program is ready in the next few months to support students who may want to catch up on skills over the summer to prepare for classes in the fall. He gives examples: “Volunteers can be there for even simple things like listening to young children practise their reading skills, or for older ones to go over material they didn’t quite understand in their compressed high school courses.”
For further details about participating in this program, send an email to Scott at OHC-CDE@stalbanschurch.ca.