Students get homework help and much more at church program

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 1, 2015

Getting homework help is as easy as walking two blocks from their school for some Granite Quarry students.

Granite Quarry Elementary School has partnered with Shiloh United Methodist Church in Granite Quarry for a free homework help program on Wednesday afternoons.

On days of good weather, the volunteers walk the students the two blocks from the school to the church.

Angela Burris, pastor of Shiloh United, said the church began the program to address a need in the community.

“Basically, this ministry started out of the vision here of wanting to break the cycle of poverty for children and families in the Granite Quarry area,” Burris said.

Burris said literacy is a vital component of breaking that cycle.

“You can’t break the cycle of poverty if you can’t read,” she said.

Now into its second year, the program has 41 students enrolled and 10 on a waiting list.

During the program, students first enjoy a healthy snack and then get split up into smaller groups to work on homework with volunteers.

The students are encouraged to read out loud to the retiree, church member and college student volunteers. The ratio for volunteers to students is about two to one, according to Burris.

One of the buildings called the “Homework Hut” also provides wifi for the students.

Burris said even if the students do not have homework to be done, they still have to read for 20 minutes.

And students can do more than just homework. The children can work on art, sewing and other craft projects. They can also play team sports like kickball.

“I don’t care what you’re doing after homework time. As long as you’re doing something productive,” Burris said.

Burris said the program addresses more than just financial poverty.

“Some kids have a relational poverty. So they may not have a man, a father figure or a grandfather in their lives,” she said. “And so we’re blessed with lots of male friends here who can help the kids.”

Peggy Burris, church member and the mother of Pastor Angela Burris, said the kids love to come to the program.

“Usually the first thing they’ll do, one or two of them will want hugs. They want their hugs,” she said.

The program also touches on spiritual needs. The students say grace before meals and get Christian advice for dealing with school issues.

“We get to have lots of conversations where they’re not really thinking, “This is a Sunday School lesson,’” Burris said.

Toni Peeler, a volunteer, said the program offers the students a link to adults who care about their well-being.

“You’re giving them that connection to somebody, and they know that person cares,” she said.

Joyce Buskirk, church member and a volunteer in the kitchen, said there are kids who sometimes give attitude and others who just fall asleep, but she still enjoys the experience.

“It’s kind of challenging but it’s fun. We enjoy it. Everybody here does,” she said.

Mark Buskirk, a volunteer since last year, said he got involved in the program because he knew the literacy classes he had taken previously could help the students.

“I’ve just always enjoyed helping people,” he said.

Burris said church members have helped offset the cost of the program.

“A lot of times it’s just about letting the congregation know, “Hey, this is what we need. Can you help out?’” she said.

They have also applied for grants to help with the cost and expand the program to accommodate more kids.

Peeler said teachers have seen improvements in their students because of the program.

“We have heard some of the teachers say that you could see a difference in certain kids in their homework and different things,” Peeler said.

Burris said with help from above, the program comes together every week to help the students.

“It’s a God thing, because I don’t know that it’s going to work every week, and it always does,” she said.

Contact Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.