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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
The Providential Scholar
Of the Community, By the Community, For the Community
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Summer 2004
Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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Each student mentor is paired with a youth from the CIS program and the two meet once a week. The UCLA students, in addition to providing assistance with schoolwork, serve as role models for youth who often have no positive adult influences in their lives.

A five-point philosophy is the guiding force of the program. The first point states that all children deserve a personal one-on-one relationship with a caring adult who, in Arias' words, is "irrationally committed to a child's well-being — 'irrational' because most rational adults would run the other way." Arias affirms that the UCLA students more than fulfill this role.

The second and third points involve creating a safe place to learn and grow, and ensuring a healthy future. Most of the work for the UCLA students involves generating trust and credibility among the youth. Once this foundation is established, the youth are more receptive to advice, hence more likely to improve.

No program would be complete without an element of giving back to the community — the fourth point. Plenty of opportunities to give back are afforded the youth, as illustrated by the story of a young man, a hardened gang member, who went through the program and eventually left the street life. Now he returns to the center regularly to counsel others, telling his often-skeptical listeners, "I know what you are thinking because I was in your shoes once."

Marketable skills for a job or career are critical, as stated in the final point. The tutor/mentor program prepares youth to participate in internship programs offered through CIS. Many of the internships have resulted in permanent positions for the participants.

"Programs don't change kids, relationships do," says Arias. "The UCLA students come here and often wonder if they'll be able to transform the kids, because they come from such different backgrounds. But ultimately, the relationship transcends."

Pamela Corante

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