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HIGHLAND PARK : Parent Volunteers Help Program Grow

July 03, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

This summer, children and parents will change the way they spend their summer by initiating a free activities program that solves the lack of child care.

Created by the parents and staff at the Highland Park Family Resource Center, the summer activities project will begin July 18 with adults volunteering to supervise the 5- to 16-year-olds at least two days a week.

Last year's smaller staff-supervised program enrolled 12 youths, but this year's program is much more ambitious. The cooperative format frees parents to take classes, work or run errands while being assured that their children are in a safe environment and involved in productive activities, said Patricia Bowie, project director.

"This will allow them as a group to have access to programs that they wouldn't if someone were to just watch your child for an afternoon," Bowie said. "This has the possibility for real growth. We wanted to test it out to see if it works."

The program will give Dora Guzman, 33, peace of mind when she leaves her 7-year-old daughter there while she works at Los Angeles International Airport. "Many of the children are on vacation, so this will give them something to do. All the mothers will be participating. Two days a week we will come and be able to leave the children every day and know they are being watched," she said.

Without the program, many of the children would have no alternative to staying at home all day, said Maria Mata, 33, whose teen-age sons and 7-year-old daughter will be participating. She had to persuade her older children to attend; they thought it would appeal only to young children, she said. But given the list of activities and field trips, they said they will give the program a try.

And it will give Mata an opportunity to take care of other things: "I'm looking for a job and I'm attending English classes."

Without the parents' volunteering their time, the center would not have been able to staff all the activities and supervise about 50 children, Bowie said. The program will offer youths trips to the beach, swimming lessons, art and music instruction, and field trips.

"Because all these women got together and we have this number of kids, we could do these programs," Bowie said.

The Highland Park Resource Center, at 840 N. Avenue 66, offers counseling, a food and clothing bank, tutoring and child care.

The summer program will run from July 18 to Aug. 12 and then be assessed to see if parents want it continued.

"It's going to be a learning experience for everyone," Bowie said. "It will take some coordination, a lot of energy and true commitment."

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