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CITY TERRACE : Children Put On Their Thinking Caps

August 08, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

There is a buzz in the air as children go through their math and reading exercises in a large classroom at Kennedy Elementary School, where the Creative Thinking Program is wrapping up its summer session.

The noise is from the children and their teen-age tutors, some of whom went through the 6-year-old program as children. They write multiplication tables on chalkboards or sit in groups reading books and writing sentences.

The tutors and their students--101 elementary school children from the neighborhood--work Monday through Thursday on classroom exercises and are rewarded on Fridays with a trip to a museum or zoo. The children earn play dollars, which they will exchange at the end of the session for prizes.

Mostly, said program founder and president Gloria Chavez, the Creative Thinking Program helps the youngsters brush up on reading and math. The children do not attend under order from their schools, but sign up as a way of enhancing their learning, Chavez said.

"I'm very proud of what we're doing here," she said.

Children from City Terrace, Harrison and Kennedy elementary schools participate in the six-week program. Students are selected on a first-come, first-serve basis, and some were turned away this summer because the program could not afford to hire more tutors, Chavez said.

The program, funded by the City Terrace Coordinating Council, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, St. Lucy's Catholic Church and county and city governments, started as an idea to keep local children occupied during the summer.

But, Chavez said, she immediately discovered that the young students needed more than play when school is out.

"In dealing with the children, we found that a lot of them needed academic help," she said. "I'm not going to have them draw and color when they need so much more."

A mother of four grown children, Chavez has no formal teaching experience or background in the educational system. But her program, for which she volunteers, has helped improve learning among many children, said tutor supervisor Gabriel Argumaniz, who has worked with the program for four years.

"A lot of these kids are just coming out of kindergarten and they can't write yet," Argumaniz said. "I heard a mother say last year that she was so happy that her child could write his whole name before first grade. It's something he hadn't learned in kindergarten."

The 20 high school and college students are employed as tutors through the archdiocese's Youth Employment Program. Some say they want to teach for a living, but others say they find the tutoring program more interesting than many other summer jobs.

"I worked in an office as a clerk, filing things. But this is a challenge," Argumaniz said. "They keep challenging you."

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