'Near-Peer Relationship'

Capital Students Impacting Homeport Children

Students Mariah Mills and Nicole Austin hopped a bus to begin the trip to Homeport’s Marsh Run apartment community, and once there walked in the rain to participate in after school tutoring and mentoring.

But the two students don’t live in Marsh Run. Rather, they and six other first-year Education majors from Capital University in Bexley are helping children near Eastland learn to read, make sentences, absorb poetry and solve math.

The Capital students also give the Marsh Run children the confidence to share thoughts about school or life in general.

Homeport is continuing to expand its list of tutors and after school workers and partners, the most recent addition being faith-based tutors arranged through Ohio’s Community Connectors program.

The Capital students, however, provide a special benefit, said Morgen Wade, Homeport’s Manager of Volunteer Engagement.

“With college kids, there is a near-peer relationship that can enhance the mentoring experience. They are not a parent or authority figure but they can still be good models,” Wade said.

It is the fourth year Capital has provided students for tutoring and mentoring in Homeport communities, though the first time it is all first year students. The student-mentor relationships bloom quickly after the initial encounters in the Marsh Run community center.

“The first week, you don’t know what to expect,” said Dr. Cheryl DoBroka, Associate Professor of Education at Capital. The second week, the college kids have bonded with the community students. “They can’t wait to come back. Children steal your hearts,” DoBroka said.

There are challenges for sure in the process. For example, Galeah, a first grader from Marsh, struggled when asked to look at a homework exercise.

Capital student Mariah Mills and first grader Galeah

Capital student Mariah Mills and first grader Galeah

“I don’t want to read it,” she told Mills, the first year honors college student from Brookville near Dayton. Galeah was then distracted by children outside the community center. She jumped up from her chair and pushed down on the slats covering the window.

Mills asserted herself, though. “It’s just kids. It’s OK,” she calmly told Galeah. Before long they made significant impact on the English exercises.

Homeport youth development coordinator Mark Childs and two representatives of Homeport partner Columbus Area Integrated Health Service normally serve the children of Marsh Run. But a ratio of 10 students to one counselor can be daunting.

The children want help and crave attention and somebody to talk to, said Precious Milton, a counselor with Columbus Area. “The kids need the one-on-one,” Milton said of the impact provided by the Capital students.

DoBroka, the college professor, said Capital chose first year students hoping to create long term interest in the children of Homeport. It was also thought that if the students were in it long term, they could help recruit others to participate in the mentoring and tutoring.

As for her students catching a COTA bus on East Main Street, with a transfer at James Road, DoBroka credits Homeport’s Wade. Wade thought it would add to the Capital students experience to understand transportation challenges faced by some Marsh Run parents.

DoBroka said in the end, the initiative is a win-win for her students and the children of Homeport. “Service is who we are at Capital. Our mission challenges our students to live lives of service.”