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UA program allows students to help South Tucson kids

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 10, 1999
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Amina Watson wants to make a difference for the future generation, and the new Africana Studies mentorship program is giving her that chance.

The molecular and cellular biology senior is one of six University of Arizona students who visits the Tucson Urban League charter school in South Tucson twice a week to mentor children.

"I think education is really important, and it was natural for me to be a part of (the program)," Watson said.

Students in the program had a choice of which direction they wanted to pursue with the children. Watson decided to focus on note-taking skills.

During her time with the students, Watson examines the notes the children take in class. She also gave a lecture to the class on how to take good notes.

"I wanted to teach the children something that could last, something they could utilize in the future," Watson said.

Ojeya Banks, student coordinator of the program, said the whole philosophy of the mentorship is, "Each one - teach one."

"The goal is to help the children build awareness about themselves and how they see themselves within the world," she added.

Kendahl Radcliffe, assistant professor of Africana Studies, initially proposed the idea and the College of Humanities funded the program.

Radcliffe came up with the proposal after participating in a field study program at UCLA, where she did her graduate work.

The mentors make $750 for the semester. The program is year-long, but at the end of every semester a whole new class of mentors gets to participate.

The program is composed of a freshman, sophomore, junior and two seniors.

The mentors work 8 to 10 hours a week and attend a three-hour educational theory class every Monday taught by UA graduate student James Pogue.

Pogue said deciding to teach the class was a natural progression for him because he wants to pursue a career in educational theory.

He teaches different concepts in the class, such as feminist and child development theories.

All the students in the class take the different theories and use them in their mentorships, he said.

"They take those (in-class) theories and use them as a lens to view the environment," Pogue said.

As for what theories each student chooses, Pogue said it depends on the student.

"It's based on their own experiences," he said. "For some it's their major, and for some it's what they're interested in."

Banks said the program offers a lot for the mentors and the students involved.

"The mentors at the Tucson Urban League school are being able to improve their teaching skills and help identify the needs of the Tucson urban youth," Banks said. "The mentors work at the school. They lead rap sessions and do journal exercises with the kids."

Potential mentors have to submit a letter of interest to the program, along with an unofficial transcript, Radcliffe said. Then the Africana Studies program interviews the students.

"We're just looking for students who are self-motivated and willing to work in the community," Radcliffe said.

Watson has high regards for the program.

"I would definitely recommend this program if you enjoy working with kids and you care about what happens to their future," Watson said.

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