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Ma’ayanot mentors line up to help kids with homework. Courtesy Ma’ayanot

Homework help is on the way for local day-school students who want to boost their grades.

This boon to area parents has arrived thanks to the Pay It Forward Club, launched in October by Ma’ayanot High School students.

The club, which meets every Wednesday in the Teaneck-based high school, provides free tutoring to elementary and middle school yeshiva students. The program pairs the youngsters with “big sisters” from Ma’ayanot who guide them through the rigors of homework, studying, and tests.

The Pay It Forward Club, which has drawn 50 participants from local day schools and 50 mentors from ninth through 12th grades at the Orthodox girls high school, takes its name from the notion that young people should contribute to their community and inspire others to perform good deeds.

Ariella Steinreich, Ma’ayanot’s community service coordinator, said she was moved to create the program to provide an opportunity for the teenagers to perform a needed community service and aid parents during turbulent economic times when many can’t afford tutors.

The program has already received rave reviews from participants, who say the mentors make learning more exciting. Several parents noted that doing homework with their own children can often stress their relationship, and a program such as this one eases that burden.

Aviva Allen of Englewood said the program has been a wonderful experience for her two daughters, who have built a close relationship with their mentors. “My girls look forward to doing their homework on Wednesdays in Ma’ayanot,” she said. “The program has given them a sense of independence and the individualized attention has helped build their self-confidence.”

Steinreich said the Ma’ayanot students take their task seriously and often prepare hands-on learning techniques to teach everything from math and science formulas to Chumash (Bible) and Navi (Prophets). In a recent session, one mentor used ketchup packets to illustrate a math principle to her grade-school student, while another outlined a perek of chumash to help a middle-schooler, Steinreich recalled.

Because the pairs work one-on-one, the younger students form a connection with their mentors and are able to learn at their own pace. “The individualized attention lets these kids succeed and gives them a greater sense of confidence in their subjects,” said Steinreich.

Students enroll in the program for a variety of reasons; some need the extra help and reinforcement. Many others come because they find it more enjoyable to do homework with a teenager in a high-school setting than at home amid distractions of siblings and television.

Aviva Vogel of Teaneck said her third-grade daughter looks forward to Wednesdays because of the program. “She is paired up with a positive role model who makes learning fun,” Vogel said.

Mentors say that they have gained just as much from the experience as their mentees.

Molly Levi, a ninth-grader at Ma’ayanot who volunteers as a tutor, said, “I enjoy helping out other kids; it is so cool to see their progress each week.”

Chava Danishefsky, an 11th-grade mentor, said that she can see the positive results of her work almost immediately. “I enjoy working on homework with her and seeing her succeed in mastering these skills,” she said about her student. “Every Wednesday, I leave knowing that I helped someone.”

For more information, e-mail Steinreich at SteinreichA@maayanot.org or call her at (201) 833-4307, ext. 233.