Jean Koulak-Young is a retired school teacher who once also worked as a technical writer. Interested in working with people of diverse backgrounds, Jean took courses on teaching English as a second language. In 2013, she came across a notice on the bulletin board at her church looking for volunteers for a new English language (ELL) program at Wellspring’s motel shelter in Danvers. She contacted Jack Billings, Wellspring’s Director of Education, and learned that the program was also in need of a coordinator. Jean enlisted the help of her friend and former colleague from the Beverly School for the Deaf, Sharon Clark, and together they set up the ELL program.
At first only adults attended, but soon three children originally from the Dominican Republic who speak Spanish as their first language came to them for help learning English. When school began, the children requested help with their homework, and so Jean organized an evening program four nights per week. More children began attending. Many parents of children at the motel are unable to help their kids with homework due to the language barrier, making this program vital to students’ success in school.
Jean’s students range in age from kindergarten to fifth grade. Although the students all live at the motel, they attend schools from Lawrence to Lynn, so assignments vary. This makes it necessary for there to be at least two tutors at once to help out. Some volunteers bring their own English speaking sons and daughters to help out the other kids.
The Homework Club just completed its second successful year on June 21. Jean and her volunteers celebrated with a pizza party and potluck for their students, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Jean has created a summer program to keep the children in the motel entertained and engaged throughout the summer months. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays Jean and her volunteers will be providing games, crafts and music.
“We hope it’s making their lives a little better. It can’t be easy living in one room in a shelter with your family,” said Jean.
Jean is always looking for volunteers. If you might be interested in helping out with Jean’s Homework Club, or if you have a craft or music you’d like to share with the summer program, please contact Jean at firstname.lastname@example.org.