Onward House remembers 40 years of service

Onward House remembers 40 years of service

READY TO READ: Enjoying a short book, sophomores Vanessa Rubel and Spencer Colbeck read a storybook with a young girl. South has partnered with Onward House since 1974, sending student tutors to schools and collecting cans during the Canned Food Drive.

John Schurer, asst. news editor

After a 40-year partnership with the Onward House tutoring program, sponsors and members reflect on the importance of the club and their experiences.

The Onward House is a non-for-profit organization designed to aid people in need to achieve their full potential. South has sustained its partnership with Onward House since 1974 through Howard Romanek, a former South teacher. He served on the Board of Directors at Onward House, which was how the link was initially established.

“[It began with] early settlement houses, which benefitted immigrants and impoverished families,” Romanek said. “Onward House is basically continuing that tradition with afterschool programs, fundraisers and other ways to help the community.”

According to Tara Katz, Onward House club sponsor, the relationship between the school and organization is now maintained by Dr. Jim Shellard, assistant principal for student activities, since Romanek’s retirement.

“Dr. Shellard has worked to instill a strong network of community outreach at Glenbrook South so that every student engages in service as much as possible,” Katz said in an Onward House newsletter.

Shellard, along with the Student Council, organizes the Thanksgiving food drive, providing buses loaded with nonperishable food for Onward House families.

“In the [annual] canned food drive, we raise enough cans to supply their entire food pantry for a year,” Shellard said.

The Student Activities Office also provides transportation to the Chicago neighborhood of Belmont Cragin every Tuesday to tutor children.

“It’s important to articulate the purposes of Onward House so students feel like they are able to make a direct impact on another community,” Shellard said.

Sophomore Rosa Hernandez is beginning her second year as an Onward House tutor and believes it is an amazing opportunity to be a part of. The student tutors do not receive class credit for participating.

“In a classroom full of children, a teacher may not have a chance to help every student, but our tutoring program provides a lifeline to those in need,” Hernandez said.

Being raised with similar circumstances to those in the Onward House community, Hernandez can easily relate to these students.

“I grew up [in a similar environment] and the educational programs are not as good as they are here [at South],” Hernandez said. “I know first hand what it can be like if you don’t understand something or if you are falling behind.”

Hernandez understands the difficulties of seeking extra help from teachers or being bold enough to admit confusion.

“Some teachers might not be as lenient about their schedule after or before school,” Hernandez said. “It can be a little embarrassing to raise your hand to ask for help.”

According to Hernandez, the Onward House program helps kids receive any academic assistance they might need. It is something she wishes that she could have had growing up.

“If my mom had known that there were programs like [Onward House}, she would have signed me up,” Hernandez said. “The only option [for myself] was to depend on my older siblings.”

Similarly to Hernandez, sophomore Spencer Colbeck believes that the program is extremely valuable to both the elementary and high school students who participate.

“The look on the kids’ faces when you [arrive] is just priceless,” Colbeck said. “It’s something that you don’t get to experience unless you are a part of Onward House.”

Rather than battling through homework packets on their own, Onward House also encourages students to create lasting relationships with their tutor.

“Each tutoring session definitely forms a bond [with another child],” Hernandez said. “They [all] have somebody to look up to.”

Club Sponsor Bob Cowell believes the year has been successful, with hardly any hindrances to the program.

“It’s great to see how many people are enthusiastic about tutoring,” Cowell said. “This year we have gotten the bus filled almost every time.”

According to Cowell and Katz, South’s student tutors are far beyond passionate for the volunteering they do with the elementary students, and despite its hardships, the experience is always rewarding.

“There are times when you may not connect with who you’re tutoring, but in the end you always want to go because it’s really uplifting to know that you [have helped them out],” Hernandez said.

As for the future of Onward House, Romanek believes there will always be a need for it. According to Colbeck, South’s student tutors can expect the same experience in the future.

“It is such an amazing thing to be able to do for these kids,” Colbeck said. “You know you have really made a difference in their lives.”