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Posted November 4, 2014

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Wilson Launches First Mid-School Homework Diner

The program brings together students, families, and the community to help improve academic success.

Research shows that students are more likely to succeed when their families are involved in their education, however that support often drops off as students get older. 

To keep their families engaged, Wilson Middle School has started up its own Homework Diner modeled after the nationally acclaimed program at Manzano Mesa Elementary,

Once a week, families and educators come together for a free home-style meal. But before they eat, students get tutoring from community volunteers and teachers while parents attend classes on how to help their students and younger siblings play outside or color.

“I think something like this gives parents a way back into the schoolhouse, and it’s a way to rebuild parent involvement at the school level that seems to naturally drop off after elementary for whatever reason,” said Bradford Jaffe, instructional coach at Wilson.  

“We are providing parents the necessary resources to help them help their students,” added Principal Ann Piper.

Parents, for example, learn how to keep track of their child's assignments and grades through ParentVue; they are introduced to the school's website where they can get important information; they get tips on curtailing their child's cell phone use; and they learn Cornell-style notetaking so they can help their children with homework.

“Regardless of circumstance, parents don’t want their kids to fail,” Jaffe said. “They want their kids to succeed, but many don’t have resources that may help them make a difference.”

Gail Garza, a parent volunteer, said her sixth-grade daughter’s math grade has improved from an F to a B in the first four weeks of Homework Diner.

“For parents who are not so involved, it makes them be involved with their kids,” Garza said.

Garza also said the "dinner is huge"’ because it allows her to be more involved and not worry about going home to cook after the long day.

“This is not a drop-in homework hour, but an intentional literacy event that benefits the whole family,” Janyce Cardenas, Wilson’s YDI/Elev8 community engagement coordinator, said.

In the first month, Wilson reached out to families of sixth and seventh graders who were failing two or more classes, Piper said.

With initial success and the remodeled cafeteria reopening, coordinators are ready to expand Homework Diner to more families. The event will relocate to Wilson’s newly remodeled cafeteria on Nov. 18. The new space will also include a new community kitchen, which will allow Central New Mexico Community College culinary arts students to join the project and prepare donated food for the dinner.

When all construction is completed, Homework Diner will be centrally located, with students receiving tutoring in the cafeteria, CNM students preparing dinner next door, parents learning in the library across the hall and younger siblings in a community rooms down the hall.

Homework Diner is part of a larger initiative to turn Wilson into a community school. Fidelity Investments is partnering with Wilson for the next five years on the this initiative, general education and financial literacy.

The goal of the project is to increase family engagement and efficacy in supporting students in their academic advancement, thanks to the efforts of ABC Community Partnership. Fidelity Investments sponsors the weekly meal, and also commits 10-12 volunteers to tutor and clean up each week. YMCA and Vista volunteer staff entertain younger siblings with games and fun. And with the help of YDI/Elev, dinner is served.

“Homework Diner is a powerful, well-supported, and researched tool to help our families engage in learning,” Piper said.

At Manzano Mesa’s Homework Diner helps improve the culture of the school by deepening the depth of the relationship between families and schools, according to Jose Munoz, executive director of ABC Community School Partnership.

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