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 Education 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 parenting workshops, college prep programs, financial aid help, 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 and social services director, two Jesuit Volunteer youth coordinators, and various teen mentors from local volunteer organizations.
COVID-19 UPDATE: To help our kids and their families deal with the difficulty of growing up during a pandemic, the Margaret Donnelly O’Connor Education Center at Ethel Lawrence Homes is now operating a virtual homework club, featuring one-on-one online tutoring as well as a range of enrichment and self-care workshops offered via Zoom. We want our students to have a safe space to process challenging topics, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the trauma of dealing with systemic racism, and how to stay safe in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has claimed a disproportionate number of Black and Brown lives. Our goal is to help our kids stay on track during an era of remote learning that threatens to dramatically widen the achievement gap between rich and poor students.
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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.
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
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. When the COVID-19 crisis is over, we will resume the program, which normally operates for seven weeks, June - August, Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
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.
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.
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.