After School Homework Club at Fouse links English Learners students with volunteer tutors

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Each Thursday, one fourth-grader at Fouse Elementary just has to know: “Rohan is coming?”

The student, who moved to Westerville last spring from his native Ukraine, spends Thursdays after school with Westerville Central High School senior Rohan Mawalkar

As part of Fouse’s After School Homework Club, Mawalkar helps the student each week on his math assignments, reading lessons and any other work of which he needs additional support. 

“I love tutoring and working with younger kids,” Mawalkar said. “It’s a great opportunity to see how a fourth-grader thinks, especially one who hasn’t lived here his whole life. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to. It’s nice to learn.”

The Homework Club, which has taken place at Fouse several times, offers students who are not native English speakers a chance to get additional learning support from our staff along with student and adult volunteers from across the community.

Previously, the school brought the club to the students, partnering with a Dairy Queen near their homes to set up workspaces inside the restaurant. This year, organizers have been able to host the club in the building thanks to a grant from the Westerville Education Foundation. The funds cover transportation costs and snacks for students. 

By holding the club at Fouse, it’s easier to host volunteers and set up space for the tutoring sessions. It also helps deepen students’ connection to the school, Principal Robb Stranges said. 

“They are seeing homework skills that they need,” he said. “Some come because of the fellowship and the support they have here too.”

Fouse English Learners teacher Tracy Price had organized a similar club when she previously worked at Annehurst Elementary. She decided to launch one at Fouse to provide her students with additional help outside of the school day. 

She identified students who would benefit from the extra help and included those recommended by teachers. She built a network of volunteers that include Fouse teachers, students across the district’s high schools and middle schools, support staff and community members. 

This year, 38 students are part of the Homework Club, where in addition to homework they can practice their reading comprehension, vocabulary and alphabet skills.

After three months into the school year, Fouse educators are already seeing an impact of the weekly tutoring sessions. Students make more of an effort in the classroom, they said. They are more enthusiastic in the building. They are more engaged with their peers. 

Their work with the high school tutors have especially made a difference, Stranges said.

“Their connection with role models has increased,” he said. “We’re really pushing students to be leaders themselves. For them to have leaders next to them that have walked those same halls I think really has been impactful.” 

At a recent Homework Club gathering, most of the volunteers were WCHS students — including senior Parth Patel, a first-time visitor.

“When I was a kid, I struggled as an individual so knowing that I could help or have the opportunity to help other people grow is what made me want to come out here,” said Patel, who dedicated his time with a third-grader who needed help with math.

Junior Aarzoo Boparai serves as a peer tutor at school but jumped at the opportunity to work with younger students.

“I’ve always been interested in tutoring,” said Boparai, who also visited the club for the first time.  

Senior Brea Daniel is committed to working with her Homework Club partner — a fourth-grader from Haiti — for the rest of the year. The two immediately clicked since their first meeting, learning about their favorite animals, favorite candies and other details about each other while working on spelling and writing lessons. The fourth-grader speaks Spanish, French and her native language, Haitian Creole.

“She’s such a sweet girl and she really tries hard to understand what’s going on,” Daniel said. “I look forward to seeing her every Thursday so much.”