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Acts of kindness: Volunteers help students with homework at CAPTAIN site

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Acts of kindness: Volunteers help students with homework at CAPTAIN site

I’ve pretty much been banned from helping my 17-year-old daughter, Emily, with her homework.
Acts of kindness: Volunteers help students with homework at CAPTAIN site
Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha reads a book to Kevin, left, and Tyler, center, during a CAPTAIN after-school program in Clifton Park.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

I’ve pretty much been banned from helping my 17-year-old daughter, Emily, with her homework.

It’s mainly because of a dialogue I tried to help her memorize for German class. I botched the pronunciation of my assigned lines again and again, despite her diligent coaching. I’ll admit, some of it was intentional.

I thought it was funny. Emily did not.

She also doesn’t appreciate me urging her to creatie period-appropriate costumes for every history presentation she’s assigned. I think it would liven things up.

“You’re worthless for homework help, Mom, except in English, and I don’t really need help with English,” she told me recently, failing in her attempt to suppress a grin.

So on Wednesday, I went to hang out with kids who actually want my help.

I found out about the opportunity through CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services in Clifton Park, an organization that works to develop youth leadership, and empower Saratoga County families and individuals to overcome adversity and become self-sufficient.

Helping hand

Volunteers are always needed for CAPTAIN’s homework help program. To get involved, contact Mary Duclos at 371-1185.

CAPTAIN has a community outreach center in the Halfmoon Heights mobile home village in Clifton Park. A free after-school homework help program is held there every Monday through Thursday, for students in all grades.

The program serves between 60 and 70 kids, using more than 50 volunteers.

“Some parents don’t feel comfortable with the homework their kids are coming home with or they are working in the evenings. Some kids would really not get their homework done if it weren’t for these volunteers,” said Fern Hurley, community outreach director for CAPTAIN.

Wednesday at 2:35 p.m., the lodge was filled with the chatter of about 20 elementary school children. Students in higher grades arrived later.

I headed to the reading nook, where a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book was placed in my hands. Five rapt listeners begged to see the pictures and laughed in all the right spots as I read aloud.

I would have read to them all afternoon, but there was homework to do. I was assigned to help Kevin, a first-grader, and Crystal, a fourth-grader.

Crystal had a packet on electrical circuits. I helped her search out definitions for words like “conductor” and “insulator.”

Never a stellar math student, I was a little nervous about helping her with multiplication and division word problems, but I discovered my skills are fine for fourth grade arithmetic.

I helped Kevin put his spelling words in alphabetical order and watched as he wrote them in a list. I asked him to use some in a sentence and he did with no trouble, beaming at his accomplishment.

He read me a few pages of Dr. Seuss’ “Yertle the Turtle” with surprising fluency for a first-grader.

The hour passed quickly. When it was over, the kids ran to dig through a bin of small gifts — a reward reserved for those who worked diligently during the homework help period.

Andy Gilpin, associate executive director for CAPTAIN, offered some other suggestionsto give young people a boost:

-- Find a way to compliment them or praise them for something they did.

-- Celebrate the little things.

-- Give a card or note to let them know they are special.

-- Ask about their day and talk with them about it.

-- Be understanding and accepting of their decisions.

-- Welcome and acknowledge diversity.

-- Listen, and acknowledge how they are feeling.

-- Look for the silver lining and emphasize the positive things.

-- Don’t dwell on the negative and forgive easily.

-- Smiles and “high-fives” go a long way.

Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or [email protected] and on Twitter @KellydelaRocha.

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