Using the whole village to raise the children at Manzano Mesa Elementary

Posted at: 02/04/2013 8:35 AM
By: Heather Mills, KOB Eyewitness News 4

They say it takes a village to raise a child - and the staff at Manzano Mesa Elementary School are putting that idea into practice.

Community school coordinator Deanna Cook has been running a unique program there that's making a big difference for kids and their parents.

It may look like your average elementary school cafeteria, but if you take a closer look, it's anything but normal.

"It's 7:15 at night and there's still quite a few people here," said Manzano Mesa principal Peggy Candelaria.

"We turn our cafeteria, as you can see, into like a family-style dinner," said one mom. It's dinner with a twist. Every Monday night students, volunteers, teachers and community members get together for a little homework help and a home-cooked meal.

 "Before you knew it, it turned into Homework Diner," Candelaria said.

Carmen Wong is there for the tutoring. She exclaims, "You're kidding me right? Yeah, that's really easy. Everybody knows that."

It's a whole lot easier to learn on a full belly.

"There's some families, you know, this might be the best meal they have a week."

Monique Mills is a culinary student at CNM. For her, being a part of the program is personal.

"My kids go here so my children actually benefit from the Homework Diner itself. She's right over there right now, you know, working and I can never get her to do that at home," said Mills.

CNM partnered with Manzano Mesa donating the food and the chefs.

"We love the fact that we can provide it for them," said Mills.

Deanna Cook said, "We've heard from many parents who first of all appreciate the healthy meal, they appreciate the access to teachers."

These kids are learning much more than arithmetic.

"Everybody pitches in. It's not anybody’s job to do it. It's all of our job to do it," said Candelaria.

Mills added, "When they're done with their homework, done with their dinner, they're all playing."

The program officially started this fall.

Principal Candelaria says they usually get 75-100 people each Monday night.