WHO ASKED US?: Budget-Cut Fallout in the New School Year

WHO ASKED US?: Budget-Cut Fallout in the New School Year

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As an aspiring professional educator, I have been serving the community and its young people through various outlets that involve teaching our city’s least-served youth. One of the most important outlets that I have been involved in for the past two years is an after-school homework center at the WIllow Glen Library grant funded through the City of San Jose.

Through this program, I have been able to provide elementary aged students with guidance, tutoring, and homework help. This wonderful service has been an excellent outlet for families with this need at no charge. And now due to budget cuts, one of the most important services the city can offer to its young people is gone. Having seen the growth of the program, and its direct impact on youth and their families, I suspect the City will know how deeply their cut has hurt a community.

As my first year started, attendance was a bit slow. This was the first opening at a newer library, so many people were not aware about the service being offered at first. I did my duty to help spread the word to local schools in the neighborhood and once word got around, my attendance increased. Eventually, I had drop-in students as well as regular students who would attend on a daily basis.

Although we were cooped up in a small room and just a large table, we were able to have a positive atmosphere enhancing student learning and development just as the City of San Jose promoted. The students I worked with were all from various cultures and different backgrounds, many coming from new immigrant families.

My most improved student within the two years of this homework center was an Ethiopian immigrant. She came to the United States with absolutely no English and walked in not wanting to speak because she was embarrassed. This student came in every single day after school for two years, learned how to speak English, read, write, socialize with peers, and built a tremendous amount of confidence. She was also a great model for her younger brothers, one which would attend when needed, and the other too young to join at the time. At the end of the second year her youngest brother came in for the last couple weeks with his workbooks and asked if he could sit with us and do homework. Of course I let him in but disappointed him with the news that we weren’t going to be here next school year when he would be in kindergarten.

By the end of the first year, I even had a local volunteer who would come in once a week to help me out on my busiest day where you could catch us with around twelve students. On a regular basis within my two-hour time slot I would roughly help eight of the same students.
As we closed for the summer, I gathered more resources and planned what I was going to do better the following school year. As the next school year started back up I was excited to serve my continuing students as well as any new students. I had families inquiring about services throughout the summer before we even opened up, so I was expecting a great turn out.

I was able to make accommodations to make the homework center in the community room at the library even larger given the new demand. Within the first couple weeks I had an even greater turn out then the previous year. I brought back my generous volunteer from the last school year as well as another local retired community member. Families were coming in on a daily basis to receive assistance. To me this was an excellent service because people of all backgrounds were benefiting, it wasn’t a service geared towards one group of people, it was for all.
There were people who didn’t know how to provide extra help for their children, some were occupied with working extra hours to be able to provide for their families, and some simply needed a place to quietly complete homework.

My attendance doubled in the second year, and I can’t even imagine to what extent it would have increased next school year if given the chance. Unfortunately, with the entire budget cuts, after school program have been cut at all local libraries until further notice before we could find out.
Although I will continue to serve students on my own time this new school year, I will not be able to have open doors to all, like I had through the city service. It is a sad moment because another needed public service has been eliminated. For me it’s a difficult concept to grasp because I know first hand to how much an effective after-school program can make a difference in a students life. With this loss students will have limited or no services to turn to. They will no longer be able to receive the attention that many students need to succeed within their education.

For most of my students I was more then a tutor, I was a mentor, someone they could look up to outside of their family. Through this I have become a family friend to many of the parents. I have become someone that both students and parents can turn to when it comes to needing help and guidance in education. All of the families were upset with the news of the cuts. They have felt that their gratitude for living in a wonderful city has been taken because they were once amazed that the city offered such a wonderful service for their family. Sometimes families just need a little extra help, and I was able to provide this help through a service that the City of San Jose once offered, and hopefully may invest in again sometime soon.

Lisa Madrid is a contributing writer for Silicon Valley DeBug.
Photo courtesy of trancedmoogle on flickr.com.