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Community News: East

CITY TERRACE : Center Gets Boost From AmeriCorps

October 16, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

With her 3-year-old daughter at her side, Sofia Perez listened to a reading of "Little Red Riding Hood," keeping an eye out as other children squirmed and jumped up to listen closely to the tale of Red's scrape with the big bad wolf.

Perez, 20, who received her high school diploma in June, is one of seven AmeriCorps workers affiliated with President Clinton's National Service Program who have been helping out at the Eastside Family Literacy and Child Development Center at Garfield Community Adult School.

The workers have signed up for a year of service that will be rewarded with $4,725 in tuition for college or a vocational training program.

The workers assist staffers in the preschool, English as a second language classes and the reading lab at the center, which is in the school at 831 N. Bonnie Beach Place. The three AmeriCorps workers not on welfare are paid minimum wage; those with children pay $7 per week to enroll them in the center.

For Perez, the service has given her training in child development, which she wants to put into practice as a teacher.

"I really enjoy working with the children and also tutoring in the adult education (programs)."

Luly Perez, 22, no relation to Sofia, hopes to be accepted to the Los Angeles Police Department Academy after working the mandatory 1,700 hours.

She also received her high school diploma in June from Garfield and has a 4-year-old son enrolled in the center.

"I already have my goals and everything I'm doing is around my son," Luly Perez said, scraping green clay off her hands in a room where 2-year-olds play. Besides her 40 hours a week at the center, she takes a justice studies class at East Los Angeles College.

Ana Pearson, 20, counsels teen-age parents and welfare recipients on career planning. Having been in their place, she says she knows how to motivate the students when they get down.

Now she wants to use the community service and tuition to become a social worker. She would be the first person in her family to attend college.

The AmeriCorps program has increased the ratio of adults to children to 1-to-5 in the preschool, compared with the average child care center ratio of 1-to-12, said Maud Shearer, lead teacher at the preschool. The center could not possibly have hired that many adults if it had to pay prevailing wages, said Garfield Principal Dolores Diaz-Carrey.

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