Frederick Douglass once said "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Here at UCM, we couldn't agree more. Every weekday afternoon, the UCM Creekside Village Community Center is filled with young students eagerly working on homework and enjoying healthy snacks. All with the caring assistance of volunteer "Homework Helpers" that include local elementary school teachers and teens from area high schools.
The UCM Creekside Village Community Center, located in Creekside Village Apartments on Janna Lee Avenue in the Hybla Valley area, offers programs throughout the year for families and youth, including enrichment activities, clubs like Girls On The Run and the Future Young Men group, and educational field trips.
During the past school year, West Potomac High School Senior Nasim Al-Saadawi has been one of those active teens volunteering several afternoons a week at the center to mentor elementary and middle school students. A Life Scout in Boy Scout Troop 996, Nasim chose the community center for his Eagle Scout project to fund, design, and build 25 large wooden desks. He then took his involvement many steps further by designing a tutoring program to work with the youth, where he recruits fellow West Potomac students to join in. “I refer to Nasim as our ‘Student Ambassador,’” says UCM Community Center Supervisor Deborah “Ms. Debbie” Finley.
“Being a tutor and role model is a caring and important way to influence our youth to inspire them with bigger dreams, so they can succeed at school and in life," she continues. “Their influence works wonders. In the short term, we see the children’s report cards and their grades do improve. Many have even made the honor role at Fort Hunt Elementary, Riverside Elementary, and Carl Sandburg Middle School. In the longer term, it makes a positive and lasting difference in their young lives.”
“Growing up, I learned about UCM and how it provides help to people in need, from my Boy Scout Troop 996,” explains Nasim. “It meant a lot to collect donations in our neighborhoods with the Scouting for Food drive every November, plus my grandmother donated to UCM. I have been lucky growing up in the family that I have, and I learned that it feels good and it is important to help others who maybe have less fortunate family situations.”
Ms. Deborah is most appreciative of how Nasim has incorporated his observations about each student into her regular discussion reviews for each child, that includes the teachers who volunteer at the center. “Nasim is so helpful with observing and then helping to make a plan with us so that we are addressing each student’s individual learning challenges,” she explains.
“I enjoy being with the children and seeing them learn,” Nasim continues. “At the holiday party in December, we decided to create special certificates for our mentees, like “Most Improved Student” for example. It is a great feeling to see them accomplish and learn so much, and be proud of their improving grades.”
View Creekside Holiday Party photo album >>
The students appreciate the help and advice of Nasim and his fellow teen volunteers. “Mr. Nasim and his friends help me with my science homework, like learning everything about atoms and matter and elements and compounds,” says one fifth grade boy who has been coming to the after-school programs since kindergarten. “Mr. Nasim is cool. He makes learning fun and cool. I got one of the certificates that said ‘Most Improved’ at the holiday party – that was cool too.”
If your group or someone you know – teens included – would like to get involved to volunteer with our youth and children’s programs, email UCM Volunteer Coordinator April Love.