Collegiate Wesley United Methodist Church has developed a relationship with the Emergency Residence Project, a homeless shelter in Ames, to help homeless children be more successful in their lives. Iowa State University students gather each Wednesday night to help kids with anything from practicing math problems to musical instruments.
“Getting to know the kids is really, really great, and so is getting to know the other students helping in the program,” said Anna Bilek, a sophomore studying civil engineering. “It makes a little community, including the members of the church. The community at the church is something that feels like my church away from home.”
Bilek has been helping with the program since she heard about it her first Sunday on campus.
“Study Buddies has been such a great experience and I look forward to the next Wednesday night the second I leave the church,” she said.
The group has averaged about eight kids each week this year. Since they are working with a homeless shelter they don’t always know how many kids will be around, but the college students are always excited to see them and work with them.
“Participating in Study Buddies is probably the best decision I made in my whole college experience,” said Michael Litscher, a junior double-majoring in mathematics and civil engineering.
Litscher says he sees value in the program because he’s learning valuable lessons about how to work with people from different backgrounds and experiences.
“Across the street (on campus) the world is totally different than it is in the church,” said Litscher. “Study Buddies is a great experience to learn more about yourself and about other people, and to be an obvious help to someone’s life. Whatever I end up doing, hopefully I’m improving the community.”
Lisa Steel, Assistant in University Student Ministries at Collegiate, helps coordinate the program, which also includes a snack, a meal, and some time to play.
“It’s great for the college students to learn about these family’s situations and to get to know how great these kids are,” said Steel.
When asked how others could help, Steel said she’d welcome more help from college students and donations from others to help keep the program running.
“We are always buying snacks and workbooks for the kids,” said Steel. “If someone is interested in starting something similar to this in their church I’d be happy to work with them and see if we can get this program going further.”
To learn more about Study Buddies or to help, contact Lisa Steel by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting www.cwames.org. To give to the Emergency Residence Project, visit www.amesshelter.org.