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Editorial: UA student mentors valuable in South Tucson

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 17, 1999
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All cultural relativism aside, the City of South Tucson has its share of problems. It is plagued by crime, police brutality, drug use and economic malaise. Too often, students there lack role models, educational support and the knowledge that would enable them to succeed. It is a problem area, and it's right in our backyard.

Recently, members of the University of Arizona community have taken the first steps toward making a difference in the lives of our neighbors in South Tucson. Twice a week, five students from the African Studies program visit a charter school in South Tucson in order to help out students. This mentorship program is one of the most positive things that the university can do for the community.

These children are in a charter school. They, and their parents, have made a commitment to get them a better life. Helping them overcome the odds and meet this goal should be a priority for all elements of society.

For these volunteers, it only takes 10 hours a week to meet this goal. That commitment is enough to change the lives of both the mentors and their students.

They get paid, but they certainly don't do it for the money. $750 a semester is enough to allow them to devote a few hours of their time each week, but not so much that the money becomes more important than the children.

It really takes very little to give children a fighting chance and to improve themselves. They need to see that they can improve themselves, that there is a better life out there and they need to know that there is someone out there rooting for them, doing all that they can to get them a chance for success.

As is common in cases where people give of themselves to others, the benefits go both ways. On top of their stipends, mentors in the program get weekly classes in educational theory and get hands-on experience in utilizing the theories taught in the class in real-world situations. If they pursue a career in this field, as some of them are considering, this experience will prove invaluable.

Educational theory is almost certainly one of the fields in which field experience is a valuable addition to any resume. This sort of hands-on experience is something that will carry them through many interviews and enable them to attain the same level of success that they are trying to give to the students they teach.

Even if they do not choose to pursue careers in this field, these experiences will do more than help them achieve professional success. Also, it will give them the experience of helping people that is a vital part of the background of every well-rounded person.

For these children, as well as most at-risk children, school skills are of vital importance. One of the volunteers teaches her students note-taking skills. This skill, and others like it, will be of vital importance in getting these students a successful academic career, and thus, a successful life.

However, what is taught is secondary to the fact that these kids now know that someone cares about them - and their future success - enough to take time out to help them. That something so small and so profound can be given with so little effort should be a call to action for us all.

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