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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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HELPING TO SHAPE THE FUTURE

"WHATEVER YOU NEED TO TALK ABOUT, YOU CAN BE OPEN."

FOR MANY OF THE KIDS growing up in parts of Inglewood and along the Crenshaw corridor mottled with poverty, broken homes and gang violence, the thought of getting into college is, at best, a distant dream. Simply getting decent grades — and sometimes just showing up for school — are the more immediate challenges.

But for those with the motivation, there are options. And so, from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, some 200 students show up at four community centers and local schools to participate in the Students Heightening Academic Performance through Education (SHAPE) program. There, UCLA students from the African American Student Union serve as their tutors and counselors.

Eleven-year-old Jermisha Armstrong, a sixth-grader at Ascension Lutheran School in Inglewood, attends the program at the High Standard Education Center (HSEC), a storefront community center on Crenshaw Boulevard.

"I come to get my homework done," she says. "It's quiet here. They break it down for me. And they help me do it instead of doing it for me — this way my mind gets to know how [to do it] next time."

Established five years ago, SHAPE's key goal is to increase college eligibility for educationally disadvantaged students, says program director Mia Watson '99. While the program has its success stories, the fact remains, says Watson, that "instead of going to college, many youth in this community find themselves caught up in the struggle for basic survival."

Some kids sign up for SHAPE because their parents make them do it, she admits. But eventually, she says, many decide on their own that they want to be there.

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