A Window Into Learning Hour

A volunteer, Isabelle, teaches Spanish.

A volunteer, Isabelle, teaches Spanish.


“I like science best. We’re learning about rocks,” the girl declares as she settles into a chair. Her smile reveals two front teeth waiting to grow in. She is in the first grade and has lived with her family at the shelter for several months while they search for housing.

Soon she is joined by four other elementary aged children, all eager to begin Learning Hour. No one has remembered their backpacks. A staff member sends the kids upstairs to retrieve them and they all return breathless, plopping their bags onto the table.

And so it goes. Learning Hour at the shelter takes place four afternoons a week. Elementary aged residents are joined by volunteers who help with homework and computer skills. A Spanish teacher comes in once a week. The kids are each given a journal and are encouraged to use this as an outlet for the many emotions they may experience during this time of instability in their young lives.

afternoon at Garfield park

An afternoon at Garfield Park

Learning Hour serves a very practical purpose. Children experiencing homelessness often fall behind their peers in school. Volunteers provide one-on-one tutoring. But beyond this, it  is invaluable in many other ways.

Experiencing homelessness, living at a shelter, can be scary and isolating for a child. Learning Hour helps build relationships, both with other children and with the volunteers. Peer support is an important part of this process. Kids living at the shelter often develop lasting bonds with one another, finding friends who understands what they’ve been going through. We’ve also developed an informal partnership with Archbishop Murphy High School and currently have eight students who volunteer. It is always heartening to see the learning, laughing and relationship building that happens when kids help kids.

Our hope is that this time spent in the activity room each afternoon helps the children not only achieve in school, but also build trust, confidence and a safe, supportive place on their journey to a permanent home.


Students from Archbishop Murphy High School provide peer support.

Students from Archbishop Murphy High School provide peer support.