By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 07, 2019 at 2:28 PM

Homework dinners are family engagement dinners held by schools to help boost student achievement by helping with homework support, but they offer so much more, too. There’s also a good meal, there’s family time spent together around the table and broader educational support.

Begun in the Albuquerque, New Mexico school district by teachers responding to a need for family support that they saw, the dinners are beginning to take hold here, too, thanks to a partnership between Journey House, MPS’ Longfellow School and Water Street Brewery.

Journey House and Longfellow School are located in connecting buildings at 1021 S. 21st St.

"Journey House and Longfellow Elementary Homework Dinners is a series of family engagement events that allow students and families to receive homework support, participate in engaging learning activities while taking advantage of community resources and educational programs," affirms Cherise Myers, Journey House’s director of community partnerships.

"Support is provided by community partners, teachers, volunteers and tutors in addition to receiving a free meal for the whole family. Homework Dinners is open to any family in the school community."

Journey House works to empower families on Milwaukee's near South Side to move out of poverty by offering adult education, youth development, workforce readiness and family engagement, says Myers.

The partnership launched in March 2018 and its first dinner focused around math and homework help for students and parents drew 75 families.

Four more dinners were planned for the first year, and now four more have been added to the calendar: Thursday, Nov. 7, from 4:45 to 6:45 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 6, from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m.; and two more from 5 to 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 15 and Wednesday, March 11.

Water Street Brewery got involved with Journey House during the 2017 holiday season, according to Director of Operations, Matt Schmidt.

"The partnership with Journey House started during the ‘3 Days of Christmas’ put on by The Milwaukee Kitchen Cabinet," he says. "I was impressed with Journey House’s mission and how organized they were. I was also impressed with how appreciative, respectful, intelligent and friendly the kids were.

"The program teaches kids that learning is an ongoing process that continues outside the classroom, including skills beyond school like a proper handshake, how to interview for a job and how to dress appropriately for situations. It creates a culture at Journey House that it’s cool to be smart and strive for success. The program also makes sure kids know that getting extra help with the learning process doesn’t need to have a stigma attached to it."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.