By DANIEL FOSTER
Special to The Press-Enterprise
SAN BERNARDINO – The fight to increase high school graduation rates won’t be won overnight.
But members of the Youth Action Project are doing their part to instill pride, accomplishment, and empowerment – one student at a time.
Each year, Youth Action Project consists of about 50 members of AmeriCorps program, a national volunteer program. Each volunteer commits to either 675 hours or 900 hours of service over the course of the program year.
“Most of these volunteers are local college students,” said Joseph Williams, one of the project’s founders and its chief executive officer. “The majority of them provide academic support, mentoring and positive youth development activities in San Bernardino City Unified School District schools, while some provide support in the office, coordinate events, conduct community needs assessments and perform other administrative work to support the organization.”
Students targeted for assistance by project volunteers have either failed the California High School Exit Exam, or been identified as being at risk for failing the exam.
“The Youth Action Project tutors in our school have been a great benefit for us,” said Terri Owens, vice principal at San Gorgonio High School. “The tutors take the students out of the classroom and work one on one with them. It has been a wonderful benefit in boosting the students’ scores in the (exit exam) so that more and more of our kids can graduate.”
Project members receive a modest bi-weekly stipend, and, when their service is complete, receive college tuition reimbursement.
Williams said that, over the past year, about 200 high school students were assisted.
“Our members have some amazing stories about young people they’ve worked with in our local schools as well as their experiences providing community service,” he said.
“I have met many teens that face very hard situations,” said Laurie Hardwick, a project volunteer. “One girl is a foster child. She has really opened up to me, and we work hard on her math. I believe she will pass the California High School Entrance Exam because her attitude has changed since we met.”
Then there are other differences volunteers make within the community.
“A community event I really enjoyed was helping clean up Seccombe Lake,” said Dominique Green about the activity in San Bernardino, “because I have passed by that park many times thinking someone should really do something about getting it cleaned up. To be part of the solution made me very proud.”
For more information about the Nonprofit Spotlight, contact Daniel Foster at The Community Foundation at 951-684-4194 or DFoster@thecommunityfoundation.net.