Homeschoolers pitch in at Together We Cope
Three young men being homeschooled by their parents get a different sort of lesson on Tuesday mornings when they volunteer to help their neighbors in need at Together We Cope.
“The thing I learned here is that you wouldn’t know from someone you see on the street that they might need help. The people who come here for food or clothes look just like anyone else. You never know who needs some help,” said Simon Summers, 13, of Palos Heights. Simon began volunteering at TWC after his mom, Dori, heard food pantry director Carol Ettema speak about TWC at their Orland Park church. “She thought it was a good opportunity for me,” he said.
Simon and two other young men being homeschooled meet up every Tuesday morning for this voluntary community service in TWC’s food pantry, and then sometimes share academic exercises later in the day. On a recent Tuesday morning, they were leaving the pantry at noon and moving on to a science project that would be taught by one of their older sisters.
Dirk Van Groningen, 14, of Palos Heights, has been homeschooled all of his life and is in the equivalent of eighth grade. It was another homeschooler, Simon, who told Dirk about the opportunity at Together We Cope. “It’s a pretty good place,” Dirk said of TWC. “I learned here about people in need. I didn’t know about that kind of thing before.” Dirk’s mom, Laura, is also his teacher and that’s fine with Dirk. “My mom explains a lesson each day from a book, and then I work by myself to learn it and answer questions about it.”
Benjamin Malchow, 18, of Tinley Park, has finished the high school phase of his homeschooled education and currently is taking classes at a community college. He hopes to join the Marines and serve two tours of duty while earning funds for college, where he plans to major in music. His mom, Susan, volunteers at TWC and told him about the agency’s work. “I figured it’s about time I did stuff for my community. I want to give back to a good town, Tinley Park, so I help the town’s less fortunate,” he said. Benjamin said military duty runs in his family, “and I want to keep the tradition going.”
All three boys feel they are getting a good education at home. Benjamin said he feels he’s been more focused on his studies by working at home, and he takes a break by playing various sports with his friends. Simon has several friends who are being homeschooled, as well as his siblings. He’s thinking about college already, and would like to compete in track and field events. Dirk would like to play soccer on a team someday, and is considering attending Trinity Christian College when he finishes his high school studies.
“We are very fortunate to have such fine young men giving their efforts to us,” said pantry director Ettema. “They are wonderful representatives of Together We Cope.”