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EAST LOS ANGELES : Maravilla Students Get 'Second Chance'

June 20, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

In a quiet room decorated with baby supplies, two girls wearing oversize blouses read books about child development.

In the next room, oldies blast from a radio while several teen-agers--the boys with close-cropped hair and the girls with red lipstick and heavy eyeliner--work on a spelling exercise.

The two classes are part of the "Mujeres y Hombres Nobles" (Honorable Women and Men) program started in December by the county Office of Education with a five-year grant from the federal Health and Human Services Department.

The $590,000-per-year grant will allow the program to bring together several community organizations, including the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, to help 350 youths 11- to 18-years-old and their families in the Maravilla Housing Project area. The program targets pregnant teen-agers, gang members, drug users and juvenile offenders to get them back into school, off drugs, out of gangs and into counseling.

"This is a model program where we hope all of the students' needs would be filled in one location," said Principal Lupe Delgado, who has worked in alternative education programs with the county. "In the past we may have referred someone to counseling, but they may not have been getting it. This way, we can deliver all the services here."

Started as an independent study course in December, the program grew in March to include a Latina Pregnant Minor Program and Alternative Schools with Purpose, which brings together teen-age dropouts. Three more independent study programs, with 17 to 20 students each, are planned to start this summer.

An open house is scheduled Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1260 Monterey Pass Road in Monterey Park.

Prints commemorating local Chicano artists hang throughout the facility, as well as a poster of Latino recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor and another of Latinos in history.

"We want (the program's participants) to see the accomplishments of Hispanics and to drum in the fact that they are part of this history," said Annie Cabrera, assistant principal of the program.

The program also aims to teach responsibility--focusing on the environment. Students pick up trash and paint over graffiti in their neighborhoods and are responsible for maintaining the appearance of the school, Cabrera said.

Students in the alternative school say they get more attention from their teachers there.

"In the regular high school you don't get the help like you do here," said Vanessa, 15. "It's the people, too, because (in high school) you get pressured into ditching too many classes."

The staff of about 20 teachers, probation officers, consultants, nurses and administrators work odd hours and visit homes to meet with parents and neighbors. Delgado said the goal is to make the building a place where the community will visit and seek help.

Most of all, she said, the program's administrators want to change the way education has been delivered to students who do not fit the model for which traditional schools have been structured.

"It truly needs to be a second chance for our students," Delgado said. "We need to really extend ourselves and find out what the students need."

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