Northside Christian Church is known for its tendency to reach out to help others in the community, and it saw an opportunity to help children with their school work twice a week, even to the point of providing transportation for them, as they realize that parents are often still at work at that time.
Stacy Smith, the youth minister of Northside Church, said that the church’s after-school study help program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, with sessions running from after school until 5:15 p.m.
“We realize that sometimes parents are busy and don’t have time to help their kids with homework,” Smith said, “and sometimes the kids need a break from everything that is going on around them and just need someone to sit down with them, one on one, and go over some of the homework with them.”
“It is really a good homework, hangout kind of thing, so they can do their homework and kind of hang out, also.
“It isn’t as structured as summer school would be. A lot of times, they just need someone to sit down with them and go over things – math is hard, science is hard, all that stuff is hard,” Smith said.
“I’ve been in previous ministries and I was in Marshall for 8½ years.
"We had a program there called ‘Homework and Hang Out,’ and we had a big gym and could do all kinds of things with them,” he said.
“I really saw a collaboration between the school and the program, and it worked out well.
“I talked to the school officials here, and they are real excited about having those opportunities for the elementary kids.
"The junior high and high school usually have these kinds of assistance programs, but the elementary grades usually don’t,” Smith said.
“These kids are being challenged sooner and more extensively than we were at that age, and they need that extra assistance. Unfortunately, the teacher sitting in a classroom with 25 kids is doing his or her best to try to individualize with those kids, but it is very difficult, because they have their stuff that they have to get through. There are just some kids who have struggles, and they are the ones we want to try to help,” he said.
“When I go through the grocery store with my cart, I still add up in my head what they cost, so I won’t be surprised when I get to the check-out. People ask me how I can do that, but that is the way I was taught. We had to add in our heads.
“That’s the kind of thing that I think we can help the younger students with.”
“Right now, to help us, we have volunteers available as we need them. We have high school students and other adults who would be interested in helping, as well.
“We have worked with the schools and if there is a student who wants to come to the program, the school will actually drop them off at the corner of Jackson and Sunset, and we will go down to meet them at the bus.
"So, there is not a transportation issue for parents until they have to come to pick them up by 5:15 (on Mondays).
“On Wednesday evening, they can stay, because we have a meal for the elementary kids at 5:30 p.m., and we have a program at the church until 7:30 p.m, so, Wednesday isn’t a big deal,” Smith said.
“We also have a church bus, so if ever there is an issue, we can also go and pick up.
“The Club House” will not be open on major holidays or snow days, and there is a minimal charge.
The Bottom Line is …
“… If we can help them get their homework done in the afternoon and focus on that, then, by the time they get home, they can enjoy having supper and be with their family and not have to worry about getting their homework done.
“We will do games and crafts and other things with the kids, because they need a break, too.
"They have sat all day at school. They need a snack, a break and someone to kind of joke around with them and encourage them to go the right direction with their homework.
“This is our first year with it, so we hope to see it grow. We don’t have a big gym, but we have a large fellowship room and we have lots of fun … in addition to getting homework done.
If You are Interested …
• Check them out online at www.northsidevandalia.com.
• Drop by the church at 1845 W. Jackson St. (east off Sunset Drive).
• Call Smith – on his cell phone at 1-217-251-9213 or at the church, 283-1970. Smith is at the church on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.