UC Hastings Law Students Give Back at TASP

UC Hastings Law students share their knowledge and passion for education at TASP

By giving up a few hours of study time each week, local law students are making a big difference in the academic achievement of many school-aged children in the Tenderloin.

A partnership that began ten years ago with UC Hastings College of the Law students has grown into a successful volunteer program at TNDC’s Tenderloin After-School Program (TASP).

Each weekday afternoon, between 2:30pm and 5:30pm, Tenderloin neighborhood children arrive at TASP for tutoring. After being greeted by staff, they head off to the homework room where UC Hastings College of the Law students work with them to complete their assignments for the day.

On average, more than 55 TASP participants receive free daily homework help Monday through Thursday in reading, spelling, writing, math and science. Staff rely on volunteer tutors like the UC Hastings students to support the growing number of participants and to provide the individualized attention that TASP’s limited number of staff cannot always provide.

UC Hastings tutors work with each student to help them complete their homework by encouraging them, helping them stay focused after a long day at school and providing study skill tips. The subjects vary from day to day, depending on what children were assigned in class. TASP staff work with local schools to keep up on how kids are doing in school and to develop relationships with each participant’s teacher. The program provides a network of support for TASP participants that they would not get from school alone.

In addition to homework help, UC Hastings tutors often become role models and unofficial mentors. Each TASP participant has a tutor they enjoy working with. Many participants memorize the schedules of their favorite tutors so they can come for homework help on those days. UC Hastings tutors take the time to share a bit about themselves, like where they come from, things they do on the weekends, their favorite TV shows, hobbies and facts about their families.

Zeyda Garcia is the Program Coordinator at TASP and has been coordinating the Hastings volunteer program for over a year. She says “I love the energy that Hastings students bring to the program. They understand firsthand what it is like being a student and the amount of frustration that comes with not understanding a concept or assignment. They are able to relate to our participants as fellow students.”

Over the last ten years, more than 120 students from UC Hastings College of the Law have dedicated their time to children in the TASP program. The college helps recruit tutors by sending out notices to students and advertising the opportunity through their Student Services Center. UC Hastings also provides a stipend for students who participate.

The sense of civic engagement that UC Hastings instills in its students makes them excellent tutors, says Zeyda, “Hastings tutors are dedicated and committed to TASP and serving in the community. I have seen tutors who have started as first year law school students and continue their work with us through the rest of their law school career.”

One such law student is Colleen Campbell.

Colleen is in her second year of law school and has been volunteering at TASP two days a week for the last two years. She credits the strong ethic of giving back that she was raised with as her primary motivation for tutoring at TASP. As someone who benefited from after-school programs while she was in primary school, she believes TASP meets a critical need in the community. She says after-school programs broadened her exposure to ideas and activities not available in her home.

“It is so important to have programs like this that can help fill the gaps where parents might not be able to. I learned to play chess and got exposure to computers. Those are two things I did not have at home growing up,” she says.

Colleen’s favorite subject to tutor is math, but she is willing to help with whatever homework participants bring to her. She strives to make the homework fun. If a participant needs to do a book report, Colleen tries to help them find a fun and interesting book to read. If they need work on counting or addition, she tries to find items around TASP that might be fun to count. She also pays attention to when participants are losing interest or having a hard time staying focused because, she’s found, that usually means they need a break or a snack.

Colleen knows she is making a difference in the lives of the children she tutors, but she says they make a difference for her too.

Colleen enjoys the cultural exchanges with the kids. When she first began volunteering, she says the children whispered when she came in the room. “They were curious about me, and about my hair and my accent,” she says. While TASP participants represent a wide range of cultures, Colleen says she has not met many from the Caribbean. “Many of the children have never heard of Jamaica. I was able to show them the island on a map.”

Their curiosity gave Colleen the opportunity to tell them about her experience moving to America. Colleen says “Quite a few of the participants are immigrants, and they are going through the cultural adjustment of moving here. I can share my story of being an immigrant with them. I can sympathize with missing home, family and friends.”

The kids have a way of putting things in perspective for Colleen. She says she leaves TASP feeling energized. “I know I will continue to find a way to tutor and give back, even when I am a lawyer,” Colleen says, “I love working with kids and exposing them to what is possible beyond high school.”

Zeyda agrees. She says “Programs like TASP need volunteers like the UC Hastings students. It is a great way to connect and get the local community involved in what we do. The volunteers also serve as role models to the children. They are able to share their different cultures, careers and interests with our participants.”

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