In order to strengthen Town/Gown Relations, Temple University proposed a community service plan to help children five years ago that would also help local students pursue their educational goals.
Finally, the plan is being put to action.
Last Thursday, members of the Temple community gathered to discuss putting together a library and after school program at the Norris Homes Housing Development Community Center located at 11th and Norris Streets.
Maureen Pastine, the University Librarian, said the donated computers are ready to be put in as soon as the Philadelphia Housing Authority hooks up the Internet at the Community Center. The College of Education made a donation of 500 books and the University Library donated $5,000 in recently purchased books. Byron Mayes of the University Library is helping by creating a database system to organize and catalog each book.
Bryan Tiley, the Community Service Coordinator for Temple Student Government, said the center will be open and staffed by a ‘skeleton crew’ of volunteers until other interested Temple volunteers complete their training which will be held on October 9 and 10.
Tutors at the center help school children that reside in the development and attend one of the many elementary schools surrounding Temple. About 35 students come to the center and range in age from six to 16 years old.
“They warmed up from day one,” Tiley said.
Tiley is a political science major in his junior year and has been active in the community for several years. He has volunteered with St. Vincent’s Soup kitchen on Germantown Ave., was active in his high school government and was a tutor for middle school students at Penn State University.
Helping Tiley with his tutoring endeavors is his twin brother Stephen Tiley, a biology major, and Maripat Pileggi, an English major in her senior year.
They have been helping the kids with math, spelling, reading and learning the alphabet. All of the feedback they have been receiving from parents has been positive even though they deal mostly with the kids.
Last April, the Philadelphia Housing Authority cut off funding for the community center and shut the doors, but the Tiley brothers and Pileggi sat outside in the cold and tutored the kids.
“Even in the cold they opened up their books and worked real hard,” said Tiley.
Over the summer, the Tiley brothers and Pileggi have been cleaning up the center which was in bad condition with boxes of food and chewed up boxes as evidence of mice. They also brought in books from the Philadelphia book bank for the library.
Associate Vice President Tom Anderson said he would like to run an Open House for enrolled students and parents at the center when the computers are in and the Housing Authority Maintenance team completes their renovations.
The biggest challenge so far has been getting lines of communication open between the PHA and TSG. The housing authority owns the building and is more likely to listen to Temple administration who have a more encompassing plan of sending Temple volunteers to different middle and elementary schools, while Tiley’s plan is more centralized. Tiley and other student volunteers want to focus on the Norris Homes and create a safe and fun environment outside of school.
Pileggi, who first got involved with the tutoring program last February, said, “When given the opportunity and encouragement, they really want to learn.”
Pileggi will be graduating next year but hopes the progress continues.
“I wish I could come back five years later and see them doing good things.”