Kearns High's Latinos in Action launches mentoring project

Published: Thursday, Sept. 26 2013 6:55 p.m. MDT

Beehive Elementary School students Angelo Nieto, left, Isaak Nieto, Latinos in Action member Bryan Mata, and Dillon Leatutufu stretch during an after-school program at Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center on Thursday, September 26, 2013. More than 80 elementary students who have been identified as being most in need of educational support gathered with 40 Latinos in Action tutors and 20 local GE Capital mentors to kick off a yearlong after-school program intended to increase academic performance.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

KEARNS — When Yolanda Price was 7, she received one Christmas present — a Lucy Locket doll.

Price knew her parents did not have much money and that they had to work hard to save enough to buy her the present she estimates cost $3 to $5. She kept the doll with her on her nightstand or in a special box she kept hidden so even her brother couldn't hurt it.

Forty-one years later, Price showed the locket to a group of fourth-graders from Beehive Elementary School and talked to them about the importance of working hard to reach goals.

"It was my goal to work hard so that I could afford to buy my daughter this one day," said Price, a compliance officer for General Electric.

Price was part of a group of 20 volunteers from GE who donated their time Thursday at the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center to teach children about goal setting. The group met up with 40 Latinos in Action mentors from Kearns High School and the 80 elementary-age children they will tutor.

The high school students were each assigned two elementary students whom they will tutor for 45 minutes after school every other day. They received a copy of each student's standardized test scores and will set goals with the students on how they can improve their performance as the year progresses.

The GE volunteers will receive updates on the scores throughout the year.

Jose Enriquez, general director of Latinos in Action, trained the GE employees in the morning on how they should talk to the mentors and students about goals and goal setting. This set in motion a pattern he called "modeling."

The volunteers modeled Enriquez when talking with the students, and the mentors later modeled the GE volunteers when setting goals with the elementary school children.

Fourth-graders Alex Ortiz, Eliza Clark and Paris Ferry played with an old-fashioned camera Price brought as she talked to the children. The camera belonged to her grandmother, Price said, who lent it to her because she was trustworthy. People will trust you and lend you things if you're trustworthy, she said.

Price jumped rope with the kids during a physical activity break and took opportunities to teach them lessons about goal setting and accomplishment.

"We try really hard to make dreams come true every day," GE community reinvestment act officer Julie Buchholz told the students.

Alex said he wants to be an artist when he grows up. Across the table, fourth-grader Sofia Lester said she wants to be a photographer, a dancer or a teacher. She also wants a big house and lots of money. Price talked to her about the importance of education and hard work in pursuing goals.

"I was the same way. I was one of these kids," Price said.

Beehive Elementary Principal Pauline Longberg said it's the first after-school program the school has provided for students and it is in high demand.

Longberg sent out a form to gauge parents' interest in being involved when she found out about the program and was not sure how many would participate.

"This is what came," she said, referring to the 80 students from the school. She estimates 20 more would participate if they had the resources.

The program also benefits the tutors, school officials said.

When Maile Loo became principal of Kearns High School three years ago, she wanted to find a way to reach Latino students.

During the first year of the program, all the senior volunteers graduated high school and began college, even though some of them were not on track to graduate when the year began.

Loo attributes that to the Latinos in Action program. The students are mentoring other students and quickly realize they cannot encourage young students to attend college if they are not on track themselves. She called it "fidelity mentoring."

"They are more confident, they believe in themselves," and they go on to attend college, Loo said, "because high school is not enough for them."

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

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