An unsatisfactory experience with a tutoring program convinced Zdenka Orbegozo she could do better.
The La Grange mother of three sons teamed with her friend, Lori Weiss, to open AfterSchool Advantage in January. The program runs from 3:30-6 p.m. at the La Grange Christian Assembly in La Grange.
The program focuses more on homework completion and tutoring than on after-school childcare. Students in third grade through the first two years of high school can be picked up from area schools and taken to the center.
The afternoon begins with games and physical activities to unwind after school, and a healthy snack. Then students split up to separate tables spread around a spacious room, providing the setting to concentrate on homework, free from distractions.
“Once the homework is done, the kids can go home and enjoy family time without the parents supervising the homework,” Orbegozo said.
Orbegozo developed her program from experience.
“When my sons were in kindergarten, it took me an hour, and as they got older, the homework got harder,” she said. “I missed all my time with my kids.”
Weiss, who has raised six adult children, is a guidance counselor at West Leyden High School in Northlake where she focuses on the needs of 40 students at risk for not graduating. Orbegozo has a background in medical office management.
Eight students have been attending sessions since the program opened in January. In addition to Weiss and Orbegozo, students are assisted by Pedtro Peralta, a teacher for at-risk West Leyden students, and Jack Mullane, who coordinates physical activities and tutors younger students.
“As we grow, we intend to hire one teacher for every 10 students,” Orbegozo said. The facility could accommodate 70 students. The after-school program rents space from the church but isn’t affiliated with it.
Frankie Popernik, a sixth-grader at Highlands Middle School, said he made his school’s honor roll with two Bs and the rest As, compared to Bs and Cs the first semester.
“They’re pretty helpful here. If I don’t get something, they explain it in multiple ways,” Frankie said. “They keep me on my toes, and it’s organized here.”
Elizabeth Campos, a fifth-grader at Pleasantdale Middle School in Burr Ridge, said she appreciates getting help from teachers, instead of her mom, so now she finishes homework by 6 p.m. and has the rest of the evening to spend with her family. Previously, she occasionally worked on assignments until 11 p.m., she said.
Jessica Ronin, a sixth-grader at Highlands, said she also appreciates having free time in the evening.
“Before, at home, I didn’t spend this much time on homework,” she said. “I try harder now.”