Margaret Donnelly O’Connor Education Center

The Margaret Donnelly O’Connor Education Center at Ethel R. Lawrence Homes provides a safe, positive, nurturing environment where our resident children can receive individual academic assistance and social support from qualified individuals at no cost to the family. In partnership with the Mount Laurel school system, parents and the local community, the Education Center staff helps students hone the skills they need to thrive academically.

The center facilitates two primary educational programs: an after-school homework club and a full-time summer enrichment program. One-on-one tutoring is provided for older students. The Education Center also offers educational, developmental, and parent workshops and events to promote literacy development, school-to-home communications, community cohesiveness and cooperation, and healthy lifestyle choices. The program is staffed by a full-time education director, an associate education director, two Jesuit Volunteer youth coordinators, and various teen mentors from local volunteer organizations.

Download recent newsletters from the Education Center.

After-School Homework Club

The Homework Club program establishes an after-school routine of homework completion and daily reading for participating children, provides academic support and foundational skills enrichment and access to the required technological and research resources that the Mount Laurel curriculum demands. Resident children in elementary to high school are eligible to participate. The club operates from September - June, Monday to Friday from 2:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

Poor Children Fare Better in Suburban Schools

  • Low-income students in affluent schools score at levels 1.5 years more advanced than poor children in high-poverty schools.
  • African American student achievement is higher when they attend less segregated schools, especially in elementary grades
  • School socio-economic status is the most important predictor of achievement, after family background
  • The educational outcomes of younger children—IQs, verbal ability, reading—are positively influenced by high socio-economic-status neighbors
(source Johns Hopkins University)

Summer Enrichment Program

The Summer Enrichment Program focuses upon academic continuity, summer school work completion and social skills development during the summer months. Children who have completed 1st to 6th grade are eligible to participate in the program’s enrichment activities and weekly field trips. The program operates for seven weeks, June - August, Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Digital Storytelling

During the 2012 Summer Program, 5th grader N’Dea Holmes taught the 1st-6th grade summer campers how to edit movies using the iMovie program. The children reviewed raw video footage to determine which videos would be considered for further editing. Once the videos were imported into iMovie, N’Dea and the children created a theme for the video and began editing, adding music, words, and transitions to create a final product. N’Dea and high school senior Brandi Cardwell also created the first commercial video that depicts why the children love living in Ethel R. Lawrence Homes. This video used snapshots from numerous kid created videos during the 2011 “My Heroes” after-school Digital Storytelling Club as well as summer program video.

Summer Book Club for Teens

A seven-day summer book club is offered to older students (7th grade to high school juniors) from 5:30-6:30 p.m. after the full-day summer enrichment program ends. Teen Leaders are required to participate. In 2012, five teens read and discussed Lenape High School’s required summer reading I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak.

Teen Leader/Volunteer Program

Teen and high school volunteer partnerships are an essential component of our after-school and summer enrichment program. Collaborating organizations include Quixote Quest, the Lenape National Honor Society and ERLH teens. The teens mentor and assist Education Center children daily, often providing one-on-one tutoring during Homework Club. Their support allows the other staff to focus on larger groups of children and helps keep the atmosphere conducive to learning. A volunteer training session is held in the fall to educate the teens about how to work with the children in an after-school setting. Each year, our Education Center staff attends volunteer fairs and speaks at various meetings to recruit new teens.

College Workshops

ERLH teens in grades 7th to 12th participate in a workshop that exposes them to the college application and financial aid processes and to the numerous higher education institutional choices available to them. Local college representatives and college-bound teenagers contribute to the event.

Annual Events

  • Back-to-School Supply Drive: Book bags and school supplies donated by various organizations are given away to ERLH resident children in grades kindergarten to 12.

  • Kids Day/Fall Festival: Moon bounces, pony rides, family pictures and delicious food are the highlights of this fun-filled event. Dozens of local officials and volunteers from area nonprofits and churches join scores of residents for this festive outdoor affair.

  • Holiday Event: Donated toys are doled out during a luncheon for resident ERLH children.