For residents of Kateri Park, being involved with a child’s education has its own set of challenges — challenges that most American parents couldn’t even imagine. Many of the residents at Kateri Park came to the United States as refugees and have lived at the Southeast Portland housing development for years. Many of the parents can’t speak English or are illiterate. Often, there are not tables or lights bright enough to read by in their homes. How can children get help with their homework if their parents can’t read it?

That’s where Kateri Park’s Homework Club comes in.

Homework club meets four afternoons each week at Kateri Park’s community building. The club provides children the space and the help they might need to complete their homework or work on other educational materials.

Between four and eight volunteers come each day and answer any questions students might have. Separate classes for math and reading are held on Wednesdays. The first come, first served classes afford the students specific time to get help with reading and math.

The extra efforts have proven beneficial, said Claire McIlwain, children’s programming coordinator. One of the students recently received the most improved reader award at the local public elementary school.

“The homework club’s mission really is to fill the gap between what the families can provide and the school,” said Elisabeth Gern, resident services coordinator at Kateri Park. Gern has been involved with the club since it began in 2006.

Many of the children who live at Kateri Park attend the neighborhood public school, D.A. Grout Elementary.

“I know many of our students don’t have someone at home who can support them and if they go to the Kateri Park homework club, they can find the help they need,” said Annie Tabshy, principal at Grout.

Tabshy has seen a benefit from he program that Kateri Park offers its children.

“I am thinking of one student in particular who’s teacher shared that he is getting his homework done every week now and is much more successful in class,” said Tabshy.

The principal appreciates that the homework club also offers students a safe, structured and supervised place to go after school.

Johra Ismail has lived at Kateri Park for about 10 years. Her children and grandchildren all have received help at homework club.

“I’m very glad to be here,” she said. “We love each other here and are able to do so many things together.”

Ismail points out that the club has helped her children and grandchildren for a long time.

“It’s very good,” she added.

— Sarah Wolf, Catholic Sentinel