Onward House members educate kids, develop relationships

Lizzie Garvey, staff reporter

At the sound of the bell ringing at 3:15 every Tuesday, a number of students leave South and board a bus that doesn’t take them home, but rather brings them right to another school. These students travel to Onward House, an educational center in Chicago where South students get the opportunity to tutor children, help them with their homework, play games and build lasting connections, according to Tara Katz, Onward House Club sponsor.

According to Katz, tutoring is important to both South students and the children, who are in kindergarten through fifth grade, as the kids at Onward House don’t usually have the opportunity to get the help that the tutors are able to provide.

“A lot of times, the kids are not able to get homework help at home, so our tutoring is really important to the kids,” Katz said. “[Kids] will yell at the parents if the parents come early to pick them up. They’ll say, ‘No! Not on Tuesdays!’”

However, according to Katz, tutoring provides more than just homework help. Katz believes mentors are able to form special relationships with the children they tutor by coming back to Onward House and seeing them every week.

“They build really caring friendships,” Katz said. “The kids will make little thank-you cards for the tutors [that say], ‘You are the best tutor; you help me so much. Thank you!’ and they might run up and hug the tutor when they see them or hug them goodbye. I’ve seen tutors bring birthday presents for the kids that they tutor when they know their birthday is coming up and the little kids will make drawings […] for them, so I think they develop great relationships.”

According to Club Officer Ben Berlin, these relationships are very important to the mentors, as they stem from the help they provide for the kids who may be struggling to learn different concepts or lessons. The South students are also able to deepen these relationships every Tuesday that they come to Onward House and appreciate the gratitude that the children express, according to Berlin.

“There are some kids that sometimes remember my name, which is always really nice,” Berlin said. “Walking into a classroom and the kid [saying] ‘Ben!’ and they give you a hug […] and that feels like a really special bond. I helped this kid before and they’re thankful for it, and [I see] that feeling of gratitude.”

According to Berlin, South mentors also get the opportunity to see the children at Onward House grow as students each week because of the help they receive from the tutors.

“We’re able to see the students grow as individuals, and you’re able to see them grasp the concepts better and better,” Berlin said. “Even today, [the student] I was helping with math had missed a class, but by the end of the day, he was ahead of the class and already doing multiplication with decimals faster than anyone.”

Onward House Club does not only impact the children being tutored, according to Katz, but can help South students find a love for teaching or volunteering through their experiences with tutoring. According to sophomore member Emma Schwartz-Dodek, she has been able to foster her interest in teaching by being a member of the club for two years.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and I think this is something that helps because it’s firsthand experience just working with kids, and especially in this area [of] the city, […] they don’t have the best education,” Schwartz-Dodek said. “I think as a person, it’s really showed me what I can experience [with teaching].”

A teacher herself, Katz says she is inspired by club members’ ability to guide and encourage the education of children attending Onward House. This in turn, according to Katz, impacts her role back at South.

“[Onward House] impacts me every single week,” Katz said. “I see what the children at Onward House struggle with [academically] and I see what the tutors do to make that lightbulb connection. I am constantly reflecting on my own teaching.”