Kids First launches homework buddies program

Children at Kids First thank their Homework Buddies mentors at the center on Sept. 4. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Children at Kids First thank their Homework Buddies mentors at the center on Sept. 4. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Several children at Alabaster’s Kids First Awareness Community Center quietly crowded around a uniformed Alabaster police officer on Sept. 3 as the officer read to them.

“We’ve only been doing this for a week, and I have heard nothing but positive things about it,” Alabaster Police Chief Curtis Rigney said. “We feel it’s good for the kids to interact with an officer in a situation where they can sit down, talk and ask questions.

“A lot of times, when kids come into contact with an officer, it’s in a negative situation. This allows us to connect with them in a more positive atmosphere,” Rigney added. “We are glad to support in any way we can.”

Kids First recently kicked off its Homework Buddies program, through which local teachers, police officers and community leaders volunteer to help children at the center for at-risk students with homework after school.

After hearing the center was looking for volunteers for the program, Rigney said he contacted Hawkins and offered to send officers to help serve as mentors to the students.

“By assisting the students with homework and other activities, the volunteers will become role models who inspire, motivate and help the kids become educated leaders for life,” said Kids First Executive Director Cindy Hawkins, noting the program will “help build a positive community relationship.”

Each volunteer helps students with their homework for 30 minutes to one hour between 4-5:30 p.m. one day each month. Once homework is completed, the mentors are available to play with the students at the center.

During their visits, volunteers are encouraged to ask the students how they are doing in school, and how they are helping at Kids First. Volunteers who are unable to visit the center one month are encouraged to call and check in with their students.

“It’s to bridge a gap in the community and inspire and motivate these students to become leaders in their community,” Hawkins said.

“So many kids wouldn’t otherwise have this type of mentorship,” Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon said. “We have so many assets in our community, and Cindy is doing a great job here.”

Those interested in becoming a mentor in the Homework Buddy program should call Kids First at 706-9467.