Take-home school work, for kids of all ages, requires educational resources (encyclopedias and dictionaries, for example) not readily available to those caught up in homelessness. These children and youths are further disadvantaged when homework assignments require access to a computer. Understanding that, HCEF early on began creating Learning Centers and then Resource Libraries within county homeless housing facilities to provide kids with access to the same educational tools at their current, if temporary, residence that their classmates enjoy in their homes.
A Learning Center is equipped with computers, the latest in educational software, printers, a scanner, art supplies, a globe and a laminated world map, and appropriate furniture.
One child happily proclaimed to a Learning Center staff member: "Now I feel like my house is like other kids’ houses. I can talk about using a computer at home too. I can even do my reports."
A 4th grade girl asked to tell what she had done during that just-completed school year that made her proud wrote: "I got a B in spelling, I got an A in reading, in math I think I got a B, and I wrote poems." Her favorite memory was "reading a book with someone and reading by herself."
Learning Centers also serve as physical sites for an After-School Enrichment Program and summer opportunities that complement the children's public school education. These are supported by HCEF-supported Reading Mentors as well as HCEF-trained volunteers. [Note: HCEF is proud to be an approved Multi-Affiliate Partner with the Pittsburgh Public Schools.] Popular offerings have included African Art, Drumming and Dance (Institute for International Arts & Languages - (IIAL), Spanish Language and Dance (IIAL), Hands-on-Science (LabRatz Science Club), Radio Broadcasting (Saturday Light Brigade Radio), and Visual Arts (The Warhol Museum, Society for Contemporary Craft), an online accelerated reading program as well as instruction on how to handle bullying.
HCEF has provided Resource Libraries with some 900 books (replenished as necessary with the help of Scholastic Inc. and Barnes and Noble Books) in each of the Learning Centers and in 7 other agencies in partnership with HCEF but without space for a Learning Center. And, in cooperation with the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA), the bookmobile serves Sisters Place in Clairton and Sojourner House/Sojourner House MOMS in Pittsburgh and Bridge to Independence in the Mon Valley.
There are books for children and youth at all age- and reading-levels, books for children not yet reading, books supporting school curricula and reference needs, books purely for pleasure reading, books on finding a job or exploring possible careers. In addition, an HCEF subscription to the Internet-accessible Grolier On-Line After School Fun and Learning Center and Scholastic's BookFlix means that children living in each of our partner agencies have ready access to these content-rich educational tools. As important, when families move to other supportive housing or to their own homes, the HCEF subscription allows them to continue accessing these websites.
A children's programing staff member reports:
"We call our learning center the Happening Place. The books are widely used by our moms and children. They are borrowed daily from the library and upon returning them both moms and children are enthusiastic. The children, some with the help of their moms, are reading the books, learning colors, numbers, and even body parts. The children tell us of different places they read about and imagine what it would be like to visit there in person. The moms of the smaller children borrow the interactive books where the little ones can push buttons and open flaps. The moms are so excited when they see what their babies can accomplish."
Kaitlyn, an HCEF volunteer since 2009 and an HCEF summer camp instructor in 2011, shares her story:
I have been working with several students at WomenSpace East. I have had an opportunity to provide them with a positive learning environment where they feel comfortable to read and to learn. The children have read over 500 pages so far this summer! They have been practicing sight words with a new set of flash cards I prepared. They are improving their reading comprehension, vocabulary, phonics, and fluency. It is so exciting to see the progress they are making, even in the short amount of time that some of the children are at the facility.
I was particularly excited about a fifth-grade boy who had been talking about not wanting to come down to the Learning Center. By the time I had worked with him for awhile he was engaged and asking to read more. Another child, who will be entering first grade, has made amazing progress in identification of vowels and differentiating be between long and short vowel sounds. It is exciting to work with students who can be so motivated to learn!
The Learning Centers and Resource Libraries are, indeed, places where important and sometimes even unexpected things are happening!
HCEF has created and supports Learning Centers and Resource Libraries at 11 residential facilities:
|Auberle Movin'On, HEARTH, Primary Care Health Services - Open Arms, Salvation Army Family Center, Sisters Place, Sojourner House, Sojourner MOMS, Womanspace East, Womansplace, Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh
Resource Libraries have been provided to five agencies that serve children but that do not have the space to accommodate a Learning Center:
|Allegheny Valley Association of Churches Hospitality Network, Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center, Bridge to Independence, Crisis Center North, Healthy Start House, and THE HEARTH Benedictine Place
What was once an unused attic
has been converted by the young men who will be taking advantage of it into an up-to-date computerized Learning Center at Auberle's Movin'On transitional residence for youths. Learn more here.
How does HCEF help create a Learning Center and Resource Library?
See our photo story of "a work in progress."
How does HCEF help transfigure a Learning Center and Resource Library?
See the photo story
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