This article was contributed by San Benito County LULAC.
The Latinos Early Academic Pathways (LEAP) after-school program has successfully completed its inaugural year and will be receiving $10,000 in funding to provide another year of services. The program is part of San Benito County League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). It is funded by a Ford Driving Dreams Grant. LEAP also works in partnership with Gavilan College’s Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program (MESA). The program’s mission is to help high school students in San Benito County to be successful and be motivated to pursue a higher education. The students are provided with personal development activities, college preparation, and tutoring support. The program also engages students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities.
“The program is important because it is helping with a more significant issue in California," said LULAC President Dr. Edward Cervantes. "Despite Latinos being one of the fastest growing populations in the state, Latinos also experience a low level of college degree attainment. This is even more prominent in STEM disciplines. If we do not address the educational inequities it can potentially hurt California’s ability to compete in the global marketplace. It is not only an economic imperative but also a democratic moral imperative.”
Students that have participated in the program have benefited by being exposed to a supportive environment and engaging in STEM disciplines.
“I developed new friendships and learned the importance of staying in school yet being able to have fun doing so," explained a student in the program named Vanessa. "I learned this with the STEM activities we did and the tutoring I gained when I needed help.”
Gavilan College’s MESA students provided tutoring support, mentorship, and developed STEM activities for the high school students in the LEAP Program. For example, students had the opportunity to build electric motors, solar oven pizza boxes, create slime, and pretest a drone kit. LEAP students were able to use what they learned in the STEM activities, and were able to implement the same activity with K-8 students at the San Benito County Science Fair.
“I liked the slime activity best because we got to go to the science fair and also show other people how to make it," a student named Melissa remarked.
According to a student named Jackie, “My favorite activity would be going on field trips and walking around with the members of the program and having a good time.”
LEAP students had the opportunity to attended field trips to places like The Cesar Chavez Conference at University of California Davis, Chicano Student Conference at Fresno State University, the Tech Museum in San Jose, and a theater performance at El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista.
Program Coordinator Marcella Serrano and LULAC President Cervantes volunteered to start the program. The two educators are products of LULAC’s Youth Program and are now working to create similar programs
If you are interested in learning more please email [email protected] or visit www.sbclulac.org. The program is open to all students residing in San Benito County. While LEAP is geared toward Latino oriented socio-cultural relevant activities and pedagogical methods, the program is open to students of all backgrounds. Everyone is welcome to apply.