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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
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Summer 2004
Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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BREAKING THE CYCLE

Adjunct Assistant Professor Jorja Leap and Vince Guerra
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Social Welfare
Jorja Leap and Vince Guerra, vice president
of development and operations of CIS.

Bobby Arias describes the young man with a mixture of fondness and pride: "He was wearing baggy pants, a bandana and an undershirt and shows up to work at a local Assemblymember's office. Three weeks later, he's wearing a suit and tie and handling telephone calls."

Arias, president of CIS/Communities in Schools for the Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley Region, is relating one of the many success stories that have emerged from the UCLA/CIS Gang Youth Tutor/Mentor Project, which received a $22,300 partnership grant.

The lure of gang life, a deprived upbringing and violence in the home or neighborhood cause a sense of disenfranchisement from society. For many youth, this means performance and behavior problems in school. Enter Jorja Leap '78, M.S.W. '80, Ph.D. '88, adjunct assistant professor in UCLA's Department of Social Welfare. A veteran in working with violent youth and crisis, Leap's work has taken her from Bosnia and Kosovo to Ground Zero and South Los Angeles.

"The problem in Los Angeles is that many kids can't find a way out from a life of violence and gangs," says Leap. "On the other end, we as individuals tend to be fairly isolated. I worry about my students. They're brilliant and motivated but have no real-world experience. The program builds capacity."

Leap's UCLA students get a hands-on opportunity through the program to make a personal difference in the lives of youth. While enrolled in a two-quarter course, students are able to tutor and mentor youth on-site at CIS. Youth are referred to CIS through the probation department, school principals and sometimes school police. Leap oversees her students' fieldwork and assures that every precaution is taken to ensure the comfort level of the students.

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