Chicago Student Helps At-risk Youth Plan for the Future
When Marco Bartolomeo was first starting his graduate program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, he knew he wanted to become more involved with his school and community. At the recommendation of a friend, he decided to do so by volunteering at Homework Help Room, an after-school tutoring program organized by Community Builders Inc. Along with Marco, about seven others volunteer their afternoons with the approximately 20 kids in the program, whose ages range from seven to 12.
Now in his second year of the program, Marco spends every Tuesday afternoon personally tutoring about three kids each week. He says he finds the time he spends with the kids, many of whom are considered to be at-risk youth, to be greatly rewarding. And they don’t just work on homework together — Marco and the kids also work on goal-planning and fostering positive relationships with adults.
For dedicating his time to kids who need not only homework help, but also a positive role model to work on their future with, Marco is today’s Daily Point of Light award recipient. Points of Light spoke with him about how he got involved with Homework Help Room.
Describe your volunteer role with Homework Help Room.
So basically I’m there every week and right after they’re done with school, the kids come into Homework Help Room and we start with going over how their day was. We don’t really jump to homework immediately, just kind of talk to them, because they’re usually more jittery because they just got out of class so the first thing they want to do is not do more school work. So we try to talk to them about their day and then we’ll get into their homework. We’ll work on that for about an hour, just figure out what needs they have as far as the physical homework assignments but also if they need to work more on their math, multiplication, reading skills. After that we usually do some play time for the remainder 30 minutes.
What effect does Homework Help Room have on the kids?
They gain a sense of consistently in their life, I think, when they’re getting tutored. But I feel like they’re actually learning a lot more than just what educational needs they have. They realize they’re able to have a positive relationship with someone older than them. They’re able to learn a lot from us and I think they really enjoy the consistency of being with us every week.
Has Homework Help Room had any effect on you as a person, as well as your future career goals?
Absolutely. I’ll find myself just thinking about what they needed or whatever we talked about that day and I’ll follow up with them the next week because I’m generally interested in what’s going on in their lives and how I can help them. It has allowed me to see a lot of the clinical needs of the kids I work with. A lot of them are considered at risk so they have a lot of risk factors for getting into trouble or what not, so it’s allowed me to better talk to them and establish a better relationship with them. I help them to formulate goals.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
It taught me that I can take a part of my day and basically not have to worry about anything else that’s going on in my life and just focus on someone else’s. It makes me feel good. It’s kind of like — I don’t want to say mediation because it can be exhausting — but it allows me to focus on something else, the bigger picture, other than the school work I have to get done and the job I have to go to.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
We do college visits and I’m looking forward to actually taking a part of that. I couldn’t last year and I was really bummed about that. We’re trying to get a college visit going on to try to get them to think about their future goals. That’s a very important part of Homework Help Room — developing goals, both short term and long term.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
On a personal level, just the satisfaction I get from going to Homework Help Room. But also the fact that there are a lot of kids that unfortunately don’t have programs like Homework Help Room and that it’s incredibly beneficial for those who do. It’s great being a part of it.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Because I think that a community will only work if people work for it. I don’t think it’s possible for someone to have a great life without the help of the community.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Marco? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Post written by Morganne Mallon.