The Hikmah reading, writing, math and homework after-school tutoring program at St. Peter Islamic Center has proven to be successful in helping East African Somali students perform better in school.
Hikmah’s 30 students, their parents and tutors celebrated the third anniversary of the program in a picnic Thursday at Seven Mile Creek Park.
In interviews, four of the students praised the program for helping them improve in school and make new friends.
Seventh grader Zakir Sayidnour, who is in his fourth year in the tutoring program, said, “It helped me improve my math. My grades went up in math in sixth-grade, and I got in most of my missing assignments. And it helped me make new friends. And it helped me know about people around me and other Somalis like me that need help. That’s how I got to know them in our schools.”
Eighth grader Abdullani Yussuf, who also has been in the program since it started, said it helped him with homework, English and reading. He learned to write paragraphs and stories. He said he likes to read graphic novels and comic books and chapter books. “The people there are nice and help me with my homework very, very well.”
Sophomore Abdirahman, who has been in the program since seventh grade and lives in a family with 11 children, said, “It helped my whole family, my brothers and sisters like their English and everything. It helps you real well. My English has improved and my writing, reading and math, like adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplications and every kind of math. It really helped us.”
Eighth grader Abdirisack O., said, “I learned writing, reading and math. It’s a good place to learn stuff like reading and math. I learned adding and dividing, multiplying, all that stuff. The tutors are good people. They help you when you need it. They help you with your homework. My grades have gotten better.”
Mohamed Abdulkadir started the program in summer 2018 in an effort to help the children succeed at their current reading and grade level and accelerate their progress. He got the blessing and some materials from St. Peter Public Schools.
Hikmah also helps all people who need help in reading things, such as newspapers, mail and files. They also help them find a job and how to maintain it.
Hikmah, which means “wisdom,” runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. There are volunteer tutors and licensed teachers available to help.
Students start out doing homework in all subjects that they bring and then they do enrichments programs in reading, writing and math for additional learning one-on-one.
“They must improve that,” Abdulkadir said. “We have to help them. The parents are not educated, so they cannot help them. When they come to us they get two things. One is help in what they have in school. Also we give them advice. We try to help them navigate the system. We encourage them to get out, like we’re doing now. Also this summer we are teaching gardening. We want them to learn different things.”
The students grew up here, so they all speak English as a second language
“They only thing is their academic level is not at the same level, so that’s why we are helping them,” Abdulkadir said. “They don’t have the help at home.
“The parents recognized that they see their children doing better than before. So now some of them can do their homework alone. When they go to school, their interaction changes. They participate more in school in the class.
“And they help the other children. So their achievement level is high now.
“We want them to be engaged in the community also. Last year we cleaned one of the parks (Jefferson). We try to teach them to give back.”
Islamic theological education at the mosque, 622 Sunrise Drive, is separate from the tutoring program.
English-speaking volunteers may pick up a few Somali words to help them, but they don’t need prior knowledge of the language.
The program is free for students. Some curriculum has come from St. Peter School district and recommendations for books from the English as a second language teachers. Small funding has been provided from other sources.
All but two of six tutors are unpaid volunteers. The program is open to kindergarten through 12th-grade students.
Before coming to the United States, Abdulkadir had taught math and chemistry in Somalia.
His goal is to find a bigger facility “to continue what we’re doing and help more students. Our space is limited to reach everybody who needs help. We are working different projects top find a nice place to continue.
“This is a great program,” he said. “We will try and help more. Resources are limited. If the facilities are better, we might have better outcomes.”