When Danny Ho struggles with a tough geometry homework assignment, the 14-year-old freshman at Mark Keppel High School in Monterey Park says he cannot ask his parents for help.
"They're foreign -- from China and Vietnam," said the slim teenager with spiky hair. "They can't read English. And they're busy." Danny was born in Monterey Park.
Danny's father works as a bus driver and his mother baby-sits his nephews.
The 14-year-old's parents never went to college, but Danny has set his sights on UC Berkeley or UCLA. One day, he said, he wants to be an international businessman or an architect.
But at San Gabriel's Asian Youth Center, Danny and about 20 other aspiring college students can ask one of the two tutors for geometry help as well as guidance on other homework.
In a converted warehouse space, the Teen Leadership and College/Career Preparation Program provides homework assistance, SAT preparation and career advice to Asian teenagers in the San Gabriel Valley. The tutors are available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.
Teenagers in the program also put together a violence-prevention event for the community, including skits, video clips and speakers, and go camping once a year in Big Bear. A Friday Night Club hosts movies or games of basketball and pool with adult supervision.
The program targets low-income families that can't afford SAT tutoring or have little familiarity with English, youth center supervisors said.
It received a $15,000 grant this year from the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign, which raises money for nonprofits in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
The students "get little support from home, not because their parents don't care, but because they are immigrants who are working hard to bring food to the table," said May L. To, the center's executive director. "They don't know how to talk about the SAT or applications to universities because they haven't been through the system themselves.... Many [of the teenagers] will be the first in their families to attend a four-year college."
The program also hopes to keep teenagers out of trouble by giving them a safe place to socialize away from gang hangouts and with peers they trust.
"Here it's easier to express myself," said Lynn Huynh, an Alhambra High School freshman. "It's better because I can talk to them about a crush on a guy instead of talking to my mom about it."
One of the tutors, Dora Quach, an honor roll senior at San Gabriel High School, said she was happy the teenagers feel comfortable asking her for help.
"I know it can be noisy at home with siblings or cousins around," the 17-year-old said. "It's rewarding to know that kids actually care about their homework and how they do in school. I'm glad that they can get the help they need, even if it's as small as congruent triangles."
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