High schooler finds rewards in helping kids

Sasha Wolff said she wasn't prepared for the impact that becoming a Homework Helper at the Hinsdale Public Library would have on her life.

"It's just been so rewarding to see kids be proud of themselves," said Wolff, who spends time after school helping younger students with homework, school assignments and academic improvement.

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade have been invited to attend Homework Helpers between 4 and 5 p.m. a few afternoons a week at the library. They can get help with particular questions or assignments, or just extra help in general, from high school students such as Wolff.

The Hinsdale Central High School junior signed on for the program early this school year in hopes of helping others grasp the sometimes tricky concepts of math and science - her favorite subjects. In the past several months, she's accomplished that and so much more.

"It's really exciting," she said. In fact, she's enjoyed it so much, she's recruited friends to join the program.

Prior to helping their first student, Homework Helpers go through a training where they learn tips for making the most of the short time they have with each child. Sometimes, the entire hour is spent with the same student. On busier days, helpers might have to divide their time between two or more students working on different subjects.

Wolff said it doesn't take long for the children who regularly visit to choose their favorite helper. Getting to know those students has been fun, she said, and it's been satisfying to see their growth as she helps them grasp a math concept, gain confidence in reading or use a study tip.

As someone who has struggled with ADHD, Wolff said she was able to share some coping skills with younger students who had trouble focusing on tasks. One student would constantly fiddle with whatever he could find rather than concentrate on his work. He also would interrupt with questions, which Wolff promised to answer only after his next task was complete. Setting small goals followed with rewards such as the promise to answer a question worked for the student, and Wolff said she saw progress. She felt satisfaction knowing she had helped him and also gained from the experience.

"I felt like it was a good chance to work on being patient," she said.

Junior year is a busy one for most high school students. That's especially true of students who, like Wolff, will take advanced placement exams next month. Partially due to their busy schedules heading into the end of the school year, Homework Helpers will stop at the end of April. But Wolff will be there next fall, when the program begins again.

In the meantime, she will engage with younger students through her work on the Wellness House Youth Council.

"Right now we're generating a team for the Walk for Wellness House," she said.

Her experience as a Homework Helper and the patience she has gained will no doubt pay off as she spends time this summer as a counselor at Kids Kamp, a program for children whose families have experienced cancer. The lessons she's helping to teach, and those she's learning herself, will last far beyond her time at the library.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean