Lessons in Success: Student-Tutors Help Kids Struggling with Remote Learning and Homelessness

March 25, 2021

Math isn’t fun in Zykir’s house.Zykir has been helped by a Family Promise club tutor

But math is just one of the trials the fourth-grader has confronted. Years ago, his family faced homelessness and entered the shelter program at Family Promise Union County in Elizabeth, NJ. His mom Roneeka received job search assistance, found employment and the family moved into their own home.

Now, as a Family Promise graduate, Roneeka gives back when she can by volunteering, and the family uses stabilization services when needed. One such support, a new academic tutoring program, couldn’t have come at a better time.

Bridging the Gap of Distance Learning

Nearby Summit High School is home to the Family Promise Club, which supports Family Promise families. Recognizing the challenges posed by remote learning during the COVID pandemic, they developed a virtual tutoring program for elementary and middle school students. Club President Josh Sacks notes math help is a popular request.

Hope Basaman, the club’s volunteer coordinator and a tutor, believes the program expands horizons beyond academics.

“I feel like tutoring gives [the kids] a new perspective by helping them see something outside of their four walls,” she says. “They see new faces, meet new people.”

Club Vice President Leah Competiello, also a tutor, adds, “It’s rewarding to work with these students and see them improving. Being a tutor has helped me appreciate my own education more.”

Basaman, Competiello, and Sacks say they’d like to see the program eventually move to in-person sessions.

Raising Grades and Awareness

In addition to boosting grades and study habits, the program increases understanding about the crisis of family homelessness.

“Given all the families have to deal with, [we’ve seen how] it can be harder to focus on school, to learn and keep up,” explains Sacks.

Statistics show children battling homelessness may struggle more in school – dropout rates, special needs, and grade repetition are significantly higher than among their peers. For many of the children, tutoring is helping them catch up to their peers. Others, like Zykir, are making up for support they would normally receive in school. His mom Roneeka is grateful for the program.

“Every time I ask Zykir if he understands his work more, he says yes. I can see his grades have improved since tutoring began,” she says. “I love Family Promise!”

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