February 1, 2015
UT Dallas Students Volunteer to Help Area Kids with Homework
Feb. 4, 2014
Graduate student Shankar Patil helps Victoria Ates with her homework at the Richardson Boys & Girls Club.
Jailynn Edwards, 8, scrambled into a classroom at the Richardson Boys & Girls Club and squiggled into a chair next to a much bigger student.
Shankar Patil, a graduate student in information technology and management at UT Dallas, had come to help Jailynn and others with their homework.
Patil volunteers whenever he can with Homework Helpers, a tutoring program coordinated by the University’s Office of Student Volunteerism (OSV), in partnership with the Richardson Boys & Girls Club.
As Jailynn began underlining adjectives on her third-grade homework paper, she told a visitor how much she likes having student volunteers from UT Dallas help her when she gets stuck.
“They’re really helpful,” Jailynn said. “One time, I got to do little projects with them. They help us make whatever.”
Homework Helpers was the brainchild of Monalisa Amidar, assistant director of the OSV. After joining the advisory council for the Richardson Boys & Girls Club in January 2011, she quickly saw the potential for UT Dallas students to contribute their academic expertise as after-school tutors.
Homework Helper Husnain Shahid, a biology junior, helps Isabella Labrada with her math homework at the Boys & Girls Club. Homework Helpers is a tutoring program coordinated by the UT Dallas Office of Student Volunteerism.
It’s turned out to be one of the most popular volunteer projects for UT Dallas students, Amidar said.
Since the program was launched in September 2011, eight to 10 students at a time have come each month to put their college-level smarts to work helping kids with homework during the club’s “Power Hour.”
“For me, the best part is they can sit down and spend time with them. That’s such a valuable thing for the kids,” Amidar said. “They start to remember our students. Kids will run up to them and hug them.”
The student volunteers from UT Dallas make the kids very curious about college, organizers said. The kids will ask about students’ majors and want to know if math is required for every college major. Some club members have even toured the UT Dallas campus as a group.
Dustin Rutledge, program coordinator for the Richardson branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas, said UT Dallas students are great role models for club members and have been one of the most consistent volunteer groups.
“We love them,” Rutledge said. “They are such an important part of our Boys & Girls Club community, and Monalisa is great about letting us know about their availability. The kids just light up when they know the students are coming.”
Having UT Dallas students work with area children and youth is a win-win for the University and the community, said Richardson police chief Jimmy Spivey, who also serves on the club’s advisory council.
“I really appreciate the job UT Dallas students have done to help our kids develop the skills that will aid them in becoming productive adults.”
“My hat is off to Monalisa Amidar and the UT Dallas students for donating their time to help kids at the Richardson Boys & Girls Club,” Spivey said. “I really appreciate the job UT Dallas students have done to help our kids develop the skills that will aid them in becoming productive adults.”
On a recent afternoon, Isabella Labrada, 9, a fourth-grade student at the Arapaho Classical Magnet School, was working on her math. She hadn’t yet asked for help, but UT Dallas biology junior Husnain Shahid was standing by, ready to help with fractions and other math problems.
“They’re really smart,” Labrada said of the University’s students. “Science is my best grade, but I like getting help with my math and other things, like reading and research projects.”
She plans to go to college herself one day, and thinks that for now, she wants to be a teacher. “I have many options. I want the perfect one,” she said.
The club’s kids are particularly fascinated by the international students from UT Dallas who volunteer, said Tiffany Peart, OSV program coordinator.
“The kids are just drawn to them. They’re fascinated by the different cultures,” Peart said. “That cultural exposure adds another layer of learning for the kids. They really look up to our students.”
Aakriti Gupta, an electrical engineering junior from India, said the kids like her accent.
“They want to know how hard it is for me to be away from home,” Gupta said. “It’s a learning experience for us, too. We didn’t have after-school programs like this.”
Before the afternoon was over for Shankar Patil, a high school student sought him out for help with a higher-end math problem.
“She had a bit of difficulty with geometry problems, and I helped her understand the basic concepts. When she started to solve the problems on her own, I realized I had done my job,” Patil said. “It felt great when other students approached and asked if we were coming in tomorrow to volunteer.”
Interested students can register online to volunteer with Homework Helpers, or call Monalisa Amidar at 972-883-6393 to learn about being a regular volunteer with the Richardson Boys & Girls Club.