[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by ATK Space Systems, a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]
One of the benefits of the Santa Barbara Partners in Education Volunteer Recruitment and Coordination Program is that many local businesses and community groups are better able to serve local schools through collaboration with this education-focused nonprofit organization administered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Using its unique resources, Partners in Education is able to coordinate with these organizations to fulfill school needs.
One such example is the leadership of Ricardo Quezada with La Escuelita of UCSB.
After serving as a mentor and tutor in Isla Vista Elementary School’s kindergarten classroom for more than a year, Quezada was offered the position of a volunteer tutor coordinator for La Escuelita of UCSB. The student organization’s primary goal is to enrich youth education and serve the changing needs of the Chicano/Latino students of this community. It also provides UCSB students with opportunities to explore career pathways in education.
As soon as he was promoted to coordinator, Quezada decided to team up with Santa Barbara Partners in Education to expand his services to the broader Santa Barbara community. Meanwhile, through different discussions with La Cumbre Junior High staff, Partners in Education had identified a need for college role models and tutors. La Cumbre Junior High students needed such role models to help them think about their academic and career futures.
With Quezada’s support and enthusiasm playing a large role, Partners in Education determined that La Escuelita of UCSB members were a perfect fit to fulfill this need. During the 2011-2012 school year, nine La Escuelita members served as tutors and mentors at the Westside Santa Barbara campus throughout the school year. Each member served at least four hours per week in a La Cumbre Junior High classroom.
“I began this initiative primarily because the schools we were serving were already receiving substantial assistance, and I wanted to reach out to other disadvantaged areas and increase our capacity to help,” Quezada said. “I have been able to expand in-class tutoring and mentoring to La Cumbre Junior High students, many of whom are of Chicano/Latino background and low-income.”
Through Partners in Education’s coordination, Quezada has been able to make noticeable improvements in the Goleta and Santa Barbara community through La Escuelita of UCSB.
“In this position, I have helped guide UCSB students, who are enthusiastic about doing in-class tutoring and pursuing careers in education, into meaningful volunteer activities, giving them valuable experience and serving the community at the same time,” he said.
For example, during Harding University Partnership School’s recent 2012 Cinco de Mayo celebration, parents reached out to Partners in Education for help staffing their games. Partners in Education in turn called Quezada, and La Escuelita members were quick to step forward. Four La Escuelita members, including Quezada himself, volunteered five hours of their Friday evening to help organize children’s games. As a result, Harding children had a great time with the potato sack races, face painting and balloon-popping activities La Escuelita members organized and supervised.
Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, La Escuelita members served a combined total of 452¼ hours.
In addition to having a major impact in the community, Quezada has also been able to develop important life skills that will aid him as both a volunteer and professional in the future.
“This opportunity allowed me to improve my organizational and time-management skills, while also nourishing the progress of prospective educators,” he said.
Quezada hopes his volunteer work with La Escuelita will give him the experience he needs to eventually achieve his dream of becoming a teacher.
“The primary reason I became involved was to gauge my possibility of becoming a teacher,” he said. “I also felt disconnected from my community and La Escuelita really helped me bridge that gap. The unforgettable experiences I have had volunteering at La Cumbre Junior High and as an advocate of Partners this year have definitely reinforced my passion for becoming a teacher.
“At the start of my first year, I was uncertain of my future. Now, I know with certainty that I yearn to be a teacher because I want to consolidate my interests and talents for a fulfilling career and for a positive result for others.”
After experiencing the rewards of volunteer work, Quezada encourages others to get involved with the community and to do what they can to give back.
“In my experience as a volunteer, I have discovered that there are not many male Hispanic role models in the field of education, and they are needed!” he exclaimed. “My service to the community has allowed me to build lasting relationships with not only the teachers, but the children as well.
“I firmly believe that volunteering is imperative because the community needs visible leaders, especially from college students.”
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— Michaela Ford is a senior at Santa Barbara High School and a Santa Barbara Partners in Education intern through the Partners Job Readiness & Internship Program. Partners in Education programs are administered under the Santa Barbara County Education Office.