Throughout the semester, I’ve used my column to highlight shortcomings in American education. But as college students in a major city like Los Angeles, USC students are uniquely situated to make a real difference for the children attending school just blocks away from campus. So for my final column, I want to explore a few of the ways you can get involved on campus to help change students’ lives by improving their education at an early age.
While the organization is best known for its annual “Pass the Can” fundraiser and titular summer camp for elementary school students, it also provides consistent mentorship and teaching opportunities to serve children at all grade levels in South Los Angeles schools.
While the summer camp focuses on outdoor activities, the USC students who serve as counselors meet with their mentees throughout the year, encouraging them to pursue higher education and providing them a source for support outside of their family and teachers.
In addition, Troy Camp serves elementary school students through afterschool programs. The Student Mentoring and After School Help program provides 90-minute sessions to help students with homework and encourage them to pursue creative projects, while specialized programs sessions focus on extracurriculars like creative writing or science.
The Leaders in Training program sees USC students develop leadership skills and prepare them for high-school level courses. Similarly, the TC Leads program provides support for high school students, preparing them for college applications and teaching them career development skills.
This early education organization holds a special place in my heart — I served in the Jumpstart corps at USC last year, and it was one of the most rewarding college experiences to date.
The program does require a significant time commitment: Corps members spend 10 to 12 hours each week working for the program, with an additional seven spent working directly with children in the classroom and five preparing materials and lesson plans for students.
Jumpstart emphasizes literacy — each week, participants go into a preschool classroom with fellow corps members (each team is comprised of four to six USC students), read a corps storybook to students and conduct lessons and activities inspired by the book.
The program has a strong focus on building vocabulary and comprehension skills, developing basic writing skills and strengthening phonemic and rhyme awareness in the 3- and 4-year-old children Jumpstart serves.
While it is volunteer-based, Jumpstart also qualifies for work-study, and students who complete the program can earn a scholarship through the national Americorps organization.
By developing relationships with college students in academic environments, Jumpstart children see improved language and literacy skills that persist throughout their K-12 education.
Science Outreach (SCout)
Although USC’s campus has its fair share scientists and engineers working on groundbreaking experiments and innovative technologies, students in the elementary school classrooms neighboring the University often don’t receive science education until fourth grade.
SCout seeks to change that by bringing educational but exciting science projects into second and third grade classes. Students get to learn cellular biology through extracting DNA from strawberries as well as robotic circuitry through robots built from toothbrushes and small motors. Exposing students to scientific discovery early on in their education allows them to see themselves as the STEM majors that’ll one day be working on new science exploration at USC.
SCout is a two hour per week commitment, with one hour spent in the classroom and one hour spent preparing for sessions in SCout general meetings.
USC’s campus is filled with opportunities for exploring exciting fields and volunteering for countless service programs, and education is no exception. Seeing the bright faces of students eager to learn and knowing that your presence in their classrooms can inspire them for years make education service not only important for community development but personally beneficial as well.
Karan Nevatia is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also a multimedia editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “School of Thought,” ran every other Thursday.