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UCLA Magazine Winter 2002
It's not your parents dorm anymore
Outside the Ivory Tower
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Winter 2002
Outside the Ivory Tower
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LEARNING TO LOVE LEARNING

"ONLY RECENTLY DID I START THINKING I COULD GO TO COLLEGE."

COLLEGE IS POSSIBLE," proclaims a poster tacked to Ernesto Guerrero's door, which is always open to a seemingly endless stream of students, parents, teachers and assorted visitors. Inside his small office, banners from various universities hang above stacks of college brochures, catalogs, scholarship details and test-preparation manuals — tools that school counselor Guerrero will use to push, prod and propel the 126 students in this year's senior class at Elizabeth Learning Center (ELC) to apply for college.

It's not an easy task, admits Guerrero, who is interrupted by a mother and son, to whom he explains, in Spanish, a scholarship application due the following day. Another student appears in the doorway with a question about his transcript.

ELC serves some 550 high school students, as well as 2,450 preschool-through-middle- school students. For these children of working-poor Latino parents in Cudahy, in southeast Los Angeles, the thought of attending college is remote at best. But ELC has been remarkably successful; last year, 110 of its 125 seniors were accepted into four-year schools (three came to UCLA) and community colleges.

UCLA's Center for Mental Health in Schools and its Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities helped establish ELC as an Urban Learning Center, promoting greater family and community involvement in helping children learn. The College Center, set up with UCLA's help two years ago, is creating a "cultural change" among students unaccustomed to thinking about going to college and among parents who hardly understand the concept, Guerrero says.

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