The America Reads challenge was a government initiative formed during the Clinton Administration, which challenged hundreds of thousands of volunteers to gather and tutor children who were at the risk of falling behind in school. Through individualized tutoring, the program would help young, at-risk students to not only keep up with the education system, but to excel. Twenty years later, colleges across the nation continue to pursue the goal of the America Reads challenge.
Lehigh University is one of many higher-education institutions that participates by gathering student volunteers and placing them at various tutoring sites through Lehigh University’s Homework Club. The Homework Club provides students with an after-school snack followed by one-on-one academic enrichment. The relationship that the tutors develop with the students leads to academic success that is hard to achieve in a classroom with a large student-to-teacher ratio.
Janysa Morales was drawn to volunteering with the Homework Club shortly after reading about the program. As a Lehigh University student studying education, she felt that the program would allow her to realize and act on her passion for children. Recognizing that not every student has the same resources and home life, she knew that the children who participate might only be behind in their education because of their lack of access. She also believes that children need a safe learning environment where they can do their homework and study. Lehigh University’s Homework Club provides these students with the resources and support that they may not get otherwise.
“[Lehigh University’s Homework Club] has become a very important part of my Lehigh experience,” says Morales. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids; working and talking with them, you really see their motivations. They tell you about their hopes and dreams—what they want to do when they grow up. Being a role model has been the most enlightening experience.”