Aristedez Velazquez, 8, squirmed in his seat, unable to contain his bursting energy. Although Velazquez and his fellow second-graders from Julia de Burgos Elementary wanted nothing more than to run around in Fairhill Park across the street, they reluctantly resigned themselves to doing math and reading homework. These students took part in Providence Center’s Homework Club, which provides local children homework help every Monday through Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Providence Center, located on 2635 N. Fourth St., is a Catholic organization that was opened in 1993 by the Sisters of the Holy Child of Jesus. The Sisters have since resigned, and the organization now offers mostly secular educational programs and community services. Besides the Homework Club, they host a summer camp, park cleanup, basic and intermediate computer literacy classes and English as a Second Language, or “ESL” classes for non-English speaking adults.
“I like this organization because they strongly stress welcoming immigrants, and anyone else who comes through the door,” said Mary Beth Schluckebier, Providence’s resource development coordinator.
The center also hosts the Youth Service Corps, in which teens from local high schools help out with the center’s programs to complete their mandatory community service hours. The center also helps teens complete community service hours by pairing them with other community programs, such as food pantries. “It’s reciprocal in the sense that we’re helping them [the teens],” Schluckebier said. “It’s good for professional development, and it teaches them responsibility. We’re also helping them through the college application process and SAT studying.”
Paola Lopez, 16, and Crystal Mendez, 16, are students at Esperanza Academy and helpers at Providence. “I fill out things, do paperwork, put things in order…and I also try to get other teens to come in to get service hours done,” Lopez said. “I didn’t think it would be fun,” Lopez continued. “But it is. The people make it fun. I get along with everyone.” Mendez stressed the program’s importance. “It’s good for the community because it gives opportunities,” Mendez said.
College students also occasionally volunteer to help tutor, such as Kaitlin Groves, a St. Joseph’s University psychology student. College students often volunteer to fulfill a specific major requirement.
Bethany Welch, executive director of Providence, welcomes anyone who wants to volunteer. “It’s pretty relaxed,” Welch said. “We want to make sure people feel welcome, comfortable and have a chance to get involved.”
The Providence staff emphasized that the center is open to everyone. “It’s an open door where people can feel safe,” Schluckebier said. “That’s unique around this area.”