Temple Student Government representatives attended a tour of the learning center and medical clinic at the Norris Homes housing development yesterday.
The tour was organized by Vice President of Academic Affairs Ryan Phelan and the College of Health Professions. Last month, Phelan told TSG representatives that he wanted to create a project that would benefit the students participating in the Norris Homes after-school program.
Vice President of Student Affairs Cristina Ackas and Main Campus Program Board President Raysean Hogan also attended the tour.
Temple has a long-standing relationship with Norris Homes. In 1995, the College of Health Professions formally included Norris Homes into the Temple Health Connection, a series of community outreach programs.
The representatives were led through the facilities by Dr. Nancy Rothman, professor of urban community nursing for the College of Allied Health Professions and Evelyn Gehres, the Director of Development for the College of Health Professions.
Initially, Phelan’s plan had included a university-wide fund-raiser to supply books and toys for the Norris Homes children. But after talking to Lisa Gass, the site coordinator of the after-school program, Phelan said TSG would attempt to provide the after-school program with “any type of financial support that it could.”
“Temple has helped make us future leaders,” Phelan said, “so we need to help make these kids future leaders too.”
Gehres said the representatives needed to tour the facilities and meet with Gass because TSG’s plans had to be “mutually beneficial” for the after-school program’s wants and needs.
“It’s not a case of doing something for someone,” Gehres said. “Instead, it should be a case of doing something with someone.”
The Norris after-school program brings in 30 to 35 students on a daily basis during the school year, according to Gass, who added that the children range from ages 5 to 13. Students receive assistance with their homework and sometimes go on field trips.
Gass, who has worked at the after-school program for 12 years, said at its best, the learning center can provide a child with opportunities they may have never had before.
“A lot of students who came here grow up and move on,” Gass said. “A few of them have grown up and stayed.
“If it wasn’t for the program, all of them may have grown up and stayed,” she said.
The learning center facility includes a main room, a library and a computer lab.
But each section of the facility is in need of improvement. The library only has a minimum amount of age-appropriate books. The computers in the computer lab are nearly all broken and school supplies are few and far between.
Rothman said on most nights, students and workers have to clean up the facility themselves, since there is not enough money in the budget for efficient janitorial services.
“We need funding in the worst way,” Gehres said. “The issue is ‘how can we make this environment the best that it could be?'”
In addition, Gass said the program could benefit from more mentors and stronger role models. She said student volunteers must be consistent with their efforts when offering to volunteer their time.
“People assume that since we’re in a low-income environment that our kids are the worst of the worst, but they’re not,” she said. “We enjoy what everyone else enjoys and our kids deserve to have a quality education.”
Gehres said it was important to provide a “vibrant enrichment program” for the students.
“Geographically we are right across the street from the university and compared to what Temple has and what our students have, it’s like [being] on another continent,” she said. “It is Temple’s responsibility to help this community in any way that we can.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.