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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Institute Provides Skills for the Future

August 08, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

Manuel Velasquez wrapped a transparent blue sheet over a board he would use to illustrate his community. He found a colorful sun cut from a magazine, glued it to his board and drizzled silver glitter on it.

Not far away, Patricia Virrueta worked on a board with her daughter Veronica, 9, to portray their family. The mother said she likes music, so she glued one of her 45-rpm records to the board. Veronica added a red handkerchief to signify her interest in la quebradita, a dance.

The students and parents were working on an art exercise at the Boyle Heights Elementary Institute's summer program at Sheridan Street Elementary School.

The institute, begun in January, is an after-school academy that aims to prepare about 40 third- through fifth-grade students at Sheridan Street and the neighboring Bridge Street Elementary School for college. It is funded through a private foundation and donations from local businesses.

It pairs the students, who are chosen based on commitment, willingness to participate and parental involvement, with UCLA teaching students for classes in science, math, language arts and history.

"Things are going so well, it's far surpassed what I expected," said Kenneth Rogers, the institute's founder.

The students' classroom teachers evaluated the program's effect on the children at the end of the school year. "They said they noticed improvement in their self-esteem, communication skills, attentiveness and ability to stay on task," Rogers said.

The summer program is in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art, which conducts "First Visit and Beyond," an outreach education program during the summer. The children receive a lifetime membership to the museum and prepare for museum visits with art projects like the one conducted last week. The class will also visit an artist's loft soon.

"Contemporary art for so many people is such an unknown," said Michael Javier, an art educator from the museum. "The great thing about working with children is they are so open to exploring. We see the kids have this need to have an expression."

The children have done abstract paintings and exercises to learn about the importance of color, line and texture in art. Boards painted in all colors and decorated with pieces of carpet, dried macaroni, beans, wood, foil and rice stand against a chalkboard. Their artwork will be displayed in a gallery exhibit at the school Sept. 1.

Patricia and Veronica Virrueta painted a blue background against their favorite objects, which also included items related to Veronica's father, Eulalio Virrueta, who is in school to learn welding, and her brother Juan, who is studying computer science.

"She's learning words that she had not learned in school," Patricia Virrueta said of her daughter. "She was doing good in school (before being admitted to the program). I'm always telling her to do good, that it's about her future."

The institute will resume its after-school program when school begins Oct. 4.

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