Tuesday, September 18

Bruins’ commitment to grade schoolers spelled AEP


Bruins’ commitment to grade schoolers spelled AEP

By May Lui

Wanted: a patient, open-minded person to be a tutor, mentor and
friend to students from grades one through six every Saturday from
10 a.m. to noon at Chinatown’s Castelar Elementary School. The
experiences are priceless and the rewards are immeasurable.
Commitment is a must.

As one of the oldest and largest community service organizations
at UCLA, the Asian Education Project (AEP) has expanded from a mere
10 tutors to more than 150 tutors in its 26 years of existence.
Although the majority of tutors are from UCLA, AEP also includes
tutors from USC, Cal State L.A. and Occidental College.

Tutors volunteer two hours of their time each Saturday to
teaching students math and English skills as well as lessons on
other cultures, the environment and the uses of the public
library.

At the same time, AEP tries to foster an environment in which
big brother/big sister relationships can develop. The project’s
organizers hope that not only each tutee, but each tutor who
commits to this project, will in turn gain something they deem
worthwhile from the program.

The project itself is situated in Chinatown where a majority of
residents are Asian and a much smaller percentage are Latinos.
According to the 1990 United States Census, 1,365 immigrants
entered and settled in Chinatown between 1985 and 1986. Between
1987 and 1990, that number doubled. A third of the families were
below the poverty level, half of the families were on public
assistance and half of the children from those families spoke
English as their second language.

As a refuge for many immigrants entering the United States, it
is also an area where crime, poverty and different cultures and
ideas sometimes clash. The economic and social backgrounds of the
students vary. Many are from war-torn countries and some have dealt
with hardships that would seem unimaginable for any child to bear.
Upon arriving to the United States, these students must not only
learn a new language but must learn a new way of life. The Asian
Education Project makes the process a little easier to bear.

Running a community service project like AEP, though, is not
without its drawbacks. Due to the organization’s ever-increasing
size, many things must be considered, such as tutor commitment and
funding. The realities of these issues make it difficult to
accomplish some of the goals AEP has set, but as long as there is a
need for community service, AEP will try its best to meet those
needs.

Tutors must be sensitive and understanding to meet the special
needs of their tutees. When a child develops a rapport with a
tutor, his or her relationship becomes a stable force overriding
language, cultural and/or economic barriers.

But when a tutor fails to show up every Saturday or takes his or
her role lightly, a child suffers because of it. As a result, they
often feel rejected or neglected because they must once again learn
to place their trust in someone new. Altered routines and new
tutors confuse children and often cause unnecessary anxieties and
tears. But once a tutor establishes a bond with a tutee, they can
then figure out the student’s strengths and weaknesses and thus aid
them in overcoming any problems or deficiencies.

One fourth-grade girl involved in our program had difficulty
reading at her level. Why? It was not due to a lack of ability on
her part, but because she did not even know the sounds of the
alphabet. Nevertheless, her teachers passed her into the next grade
without her having achieved a satisfactory level of academic
proficiency.

Because of the one-on-one tutoring she received at AEP, she can
now read at her level. Similarly, many students are being cheated
out of a solid education because of budget cuts and large classroom
sizes. One way to combat this is through programs like AEP that
supplement the classroom.

As a community service organization, AEP depends on funds
allocated by the Community Activities Commission, grants and
fundraisers. With a combined tutor-tutee population of more than
300, the resources AEP receives barely cover the costs of vans and
buses to transport tutors, pay for quarterly field trips and
duplicate worksheets and other materials.

With our own radically reduced budget, even essential needs are
sometimes left unmet. Supplies such as new workbooks, crayons,
pencils and construction paper must be rationed and shared amongst
many while extras are rare.

This year, AEP must run an even larger program on half the
amount of monetary resources it was allotted last year. Although
our project is growing, we do not have the funds to facilitate it.
Sadly, to accommodate the changes in our organization, we must turn
away tutees who really need help. As a result, the program’s
outreach is left stunted and not everyone who needs the program can
benefit from it.

Volunteering time and energy to a project like AEP can be very
rewarding, but the rewards are not always tangible or easily
attained. The self-fulfillment comes slowly but assuredly from
watching a tutee grow and learn or open up and smile. The
satisfaction comes from knowing that through your commitment and
efforts, you have made a difference in someone’s life.

For more information, contact AEP at (310) 825-2417. Saturday
tutoring begins Oct. 15.

Lui, a junior history student, is one of the directors of the
Asian Education Project.

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