Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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BREAKING THE CYCLE
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
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.