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Bruins partner up for education

By Daily Bruin Staff

May 9, 1996 9:00 pm

Tuesday, May 10, 1994

Mentor program pairs elementary, UCLA studentsBy Jennifer
Louie

Daily Bruin Contributor

About 10 "at-risk" youths at Braddock Elementary School stayed
after class on Wednesday ­ but not for detention.

Each week, these fifth- and sixth-graders enthusiastically
volunteer to stay after school to receive tutoring from UCLA
students for another 2 1/2 hours.

Bruin Partners is a volunteer program that combines tutoring
with mentoring "at-risk" youth ­ Los Angeles Unified School
District students whose environmental circumstances and resulting
attitudes may discourage academic success, completion of high
school and/or obtaining a higher education.

"Bruin Partners’ main objective is to ease the transition from
elementary to junior high, the time when students often lose the
motivation for school," said Abi Karlin-Resnick, the advisory board
liaison for Bruin Partners. "(The mentors) provide a role model and
give the students a reason to continue their education and go on to
college."

But mentors agreed that their function as a partner goes beyond
being a role model.

"We serve so many roles ­ friends, tutors, counselors and
motivators," explained Apoor Patel, executive director of Bruin
Partners.

The elementary school students said the program’s motivational
message is right on target. Viviana Garcia, a fifth-grader at
Braddock Elementary School, said her partner makes her feel proud
of herself.

"I used to get Fs, Ds and Cs on my tests," Garcia explained.
"Now I get As. If I didn’t have my partner I wouldn’t have good
grades, I wouldn’t like school, I would fight back when other kids
tease me and I wouldn’t listen to the teacher."

Many students said they are committed to the program because
their mentors are helping prepare them for the future.

"I stay (after school) so I can learn more and get better grades
so I can pass and be really smart and go to college and get a good
job," said Becky Avila, a third-grader at Braddock Elementary
School.

While preparing the students individually for the future,
mentors strive to "make the communities self-serving so that one
day they won’t need help," Patel said.

Although the mentors work hard to help their partners
academically, both mentors and elementary school students said they
do not neglect their other responsibilities as partners. Students
said their UCLA mentors also help them cope with everyday
conflicts.

"I learn how to be nice to people and to respect them," said
Dominique Saunders, a fourth-grade student at Braddock Elementary
School. "My partner says if something is bothering me, tell
someone. And if somebody is bothering me, ignore them."

Other students said they appreciate the faithful companionship
of their respective partners.

"It’s good not to have someone make fun of you when you read,
like my friends," said Victor Castro, a fifth-grade student at
Braddock.

Though Braddock students said they learn a great deal from their
mentors, the mentors maintained that they learn just as much from
their students.

"I’ve learned that kids have their own problems. They are more
mature than we tend to think," said Calvin Yang, a first-year
psycho-biology student and a program volunteer.

"(The program) is a reminder that kids are an important part of
the community that you shouldn’t forget," Yang added.

Some mentors said the program is an eye-opener for appreciating
their own childhood experiences.

"I learned that people could have totally different experiences
growing up," Patel explained. "These kids don’t have the resources,
support or motivation of their surroundings that I had. How are
they expected to complete with kids who have a lot they don’t?
(Bruin Partners) wants to eradicate the need for affirmative
action."

Through their experience as role models, some mentors said they
have learned to be more conscious of their actions during their
interaction with their respective partners.

"I’ve found that kids are influenced easily with words. But this
can be an advantage, because then we as mentors can send them in
the right direction," said Kishan Patel, a third-year biochemistry
student and volunteer for Bruin Partners.

Though Bruin Partners was established at UCLA in 1990, many
members agreed that the need for such tutoring and mentoring
programs have always existed.

"The need for these programs is rising with an extra strain on
classrooms. There is less attention given to students. More parents
are working and therefore having less time with their kids. There
is a need for kids to realize they are needed and wanted,"
explained Greg Corlin, a third-year political science student and
volunteer for Bruin Partners.

But until the need for mentoring and tutoring programs
diminishes, Bruin Partners volunteers pledged to continue in their
efforts to bring smiles to their children’s faces.

SHAWN LAKSMI

Kishan Patel, a third-year biochemistry student, helps Becky
Avila (right) and Vashti Ayalas, who are both third graders at
Braddock Elementary School in Culver City.

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