Students bridge gaps with Azusa community

The Office of Community-Based Federal Work Study Programs has become a resource for both educational and physical aid for Azusa families.

With over 12 programs promoting good health and tutoring assistance for elementary, middle and high school students, the office has become a popular staple within the community.

Kasey Castaneda, an 8-year-old student, first started the Azusa Reads, Writes and Counts tutoring program three years ago. According to his mother, Garvin Varela, he had difficulties with his writing and spelling skills.

According to Varela, she searched for a community program that would help her son improve his skills in the areas in which he struggled.

“I have been in this program for three years and have seen the growth of my child’s learning throughout this time,” Varela said. “My son Kasey is reading and learning more every day.”

According to the program manager for the FWS office, Anjelica “Lica” Juarez, “programs provide assistance” to parents who are on a busy schedule.

“Parents have said that when it comes to helping children with homework, it’s hard to understand the material, be the disciplinary figure and help them with homework,” Juarez said. “We want to come alongside the parent and take away the burden of homework so they can have more quality time at home with their kids.”

The office’s mission is to “strengthen campus-community relationships and support institution’s academic and civic engagement goals through the creation and support of sustainable programs that meet needs in the community and improve the quality of life for residents.”

“The FWS office uses the skills students are being equipped with in the classroom and facilitates a practical use for them,” Juarez said. “The goal here is to be of assistance to the community and the Azusa Unified School District.”

According to Juarez, the 12 programs FWS oversees incorporate curriculum specifically targeted to help increase APU students’ involvement within the community. Program locations include the Azusa City Library, Memorial Park Center and schools within the Azusa Unified School District.

The FWS year-in-review shows that the 2013-2014 school year brought in 13,070 hours of service to the community through programs the office coordinates. That equals $344,263.80 of value generated.

“All our programs are staffed by students and run Monday through Friday before, during and after school,” Juarez said.

According to Juarez, student workers involved in these community-based programs are “intentionally placed” so that the positions “enhance their educational goals and prepare them for a future career.”

“It’s a really great experience to work with kids one-on-one and help them with what they are struggling with or address things the teacher didn’t have time to do,” said junior liberal studies major and Azusa Reads tutor Brittany Clone.

According to Clone, this is her second year working as a tutor and she enjoys the relationships built with kids as well as spending time with them.

“Over time, you just know exactly what they need,” Clone said. “It’s more than just school work getting done, it’s getting to know what they need and about their day.”

Student workers hired by the FWS office are part of the Federal Work Study program. According to Juarez, these students are both working and “increasing employability skills to build up their resume and skills.”

“We want students to use the skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them in real-life settings,” Juarez said.

The FWS office partners with the Azusa Unified School District, Azusa City Library, Avid, Azusa Recreation and Family Services and Homework House. Programs include reading, writing, math, computer skills, mentoring opportunities as well as dance and fitness.

For more information on specific programming, visit the FWS office located in Magnolia Court on East Campus.

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