Students once again will pour back into the Homework Help Centers at branches of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, although in the case of Northern Lights, it may be more of a deluge.

The centers offer space for students in K-12 to study, along with computers and other supplies, and volunteers to lend a hand with homework.

Statistics released last week by library officials show that during the 2016-17 school year, the Northern Lights branch outpaced all others in terms of how many children visited its center.

In all, according to the figures, 99,764 students visited centers in all 23 branches during that period.

The tally at the Northern Lights location off Cleveland Avenue was 15,706. The next-highest total was the Karl Road branch, with 7,449 Homework Help Center visits in 2016-17. The Hilltop branch was third at 6,871. The Whetstone branch was in the middle with 3,018 visits.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" said Mary Wildermuth of Clintonville, a volunteer at the Homework Help Center at Northern Lights for the past four years.

"It's partly geography, where we are," the lecturer in the physics department at Ohio State University said. "We have a large Somali population. These parents seem interested in education, buy they can't speak English and so can't help their children. That was true even before the new building opened."

A vastly expanded $10.3 million Northern Lights branch -- at 26,100 square feet, double the size of the old one -- debuted Sept. 24.

Amanda Blackman, youth-services manager at Northern Lights, agreed with Wildermuth that the large immigrant population in the area plays a role in how busy the Homework Help Center is.

"The parents here really want the children to be successful and they're bringing the kids to get that extra help in reading and homework to compete and have a chance for success in life," Blackman said. "I also think the staff here has done a really good job in building a relationship with the kids and the families.

"It makes the parents feel more comfortable and safe."

"I think it has a lot go do with the particular homework help staff of really respecting these people, of really wanting to help them," Wildermuth said. "I think Northern Lights has drawn volunteers who just feel a commitment to new Americans."

"The volunteers are essential to making this work," Blackman said. "They're a big part of why this is successful."

The volunteers get plenty of rewards, Wildermuth said, particularly when a youngster who has been having a difficult time grasping a concept suddenly gets it.

"It's that, 'Wow, I did something' moment," she said. "It doesn't come all that often. For a lot of these kids just learning English, it's really a struggle, but I've learned to hang in there for those moments.

"I'm not a very big fan of this new nationalism and restrictions on immigration. By volunteering, I can say, 'Welcome to this country. I can help your children.' It's a small thing, but it's something I can do."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1