School is in full-swing again and the nightly homework battles have begun in my house. My husband and I dream up all sorts of ways to challenge our daughter to think critically about the assignments and are at-the-ready to explain difficult concepts. But what about those parents who don’t speak English? The parents who know the importance of education but don’t have the tools to help their kids? For them, there is Vecino Unidos.
Vecinos Unidos (or Neighbors United) is a non-profit, year-round homework assistance program serving the Reston/Herndon area. Vecinos Unidos is open to all low-income children grades 1-6 in Fairfax County schools. Founded 17 years ago, the program aims to provide children with the academic confidence they need to succeed.
Board Member and Reston resident Janis Dworkis recently sat down with us to discuss the program in more detail. She explained that Vecinos Unidos currently has about 40 children enrolled and maintains a large waiting list due to the need for volunteers. Children may only attend sessions if they have physical homework due the next day or, in the case of older children, are working on ongoing projects. Students are also required to bring in their report cards, partly for Vecinos Unidos own statistical data and partly to keep the kids accountable. Volunteers will also accompany families to parent-teacher conferences, if needed, to be a voice and provide additional information on student progress.
Going to Vecinos Unidos is the highlight of my week! Getting the chance to work with kids and to help them learn is just… AWESOME. — Janis Dworkis, Board Member (Materials Production Coordinator)
Homework sessions are scheduled Monday – Thursday from 4:30pm – 6:00pm. When the children arrive they have a snack, complete their daily homework and then free-read aloud for 20 minutes. Some volunteers assist with homework while others help with reading.
For the 40 kids enrolled in the program, Vecino Unidos has about 30 volunteers. They range from high-school students earning course credit to retired professionals. There is no paid staff in the organization and it relies heavily on private and corporate donations of funds and materials. Most importantly, they need people. If you are looking for a way to give back, consider Vecinos Unidos. You can help give these at-risk children (and their parents) a community that believes in them, encourages them and holds them to a high standard.
Neighborhood Resource Center 1086 Elden Street, Herndon, Virginia 20170