Upward Bound supports students over the summer

by Hector Arzate
Flapjack staff

While many have argued that Trump’s policy agenda could negatively affect the lives of all Americans, the Center for American Progress found that his budget would harm employment, health, education, housing, and safety services for most rural communities, small towns, and tribal nations. It’s likely that a cut to these services would have an immediate impact on the local community in Humboldt.

As one of the oldest TRIO programs in the state of California, Upward Bound at HSU has served six different high schools in the local area of Humboldt and Trinity County for almost 50 years, including Arcata High School, Hoopa Valley High School and Trinity High School.

Leo Canez, the Academic Coordinator of Upward Bound at HSU, outlined what students are able to do during their pre-college experience.

“We have the summer academy, a residential experience here at Humboldt State University,” Canez said. “About 35 students live in the residential dorms for five weeks, beginning at the end of June and going all the way until the end of July. They study Shakespeare for their literature course, they have a composition course, a math course and this year they’re studying entomology for their science course. They also have different electives offered. This year we have Greek and Latin origins, street art, self defense and acroyoga.”

Although the proposal’s name is meant to signal change for greatness, some would argue that a 15 percent cut to the Dept. of Education is a far cry from prosperity. The aptly named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” outlines budget cuts to several U.S departments for the fiscal year of 2018, including the Dept. of Education.

The Council for Opportunity in Education estimates that the proposed budget cut would result in a $92 million or 10 percent decrease in funding for TRIO for the fiscal year of 2018-2019, which would effectively eliminate services like Upward Bound for nearly 83,000 students.

While it certainly has an emphasis on the academics, UB tries to create a more well rounded experience for students to have fun, while learning how to be responsible scholars.

“With this program, we have a lot of social activities on the other side of the academics,” Canez said. “We go camping on the Klamath River, we have a masquerade ball, ice cream social, casino night, all these different activities on the weekends and the evenings because they’re here the entire time. So they have to balance, if there’s a swim night happening but they also have homework, they have to take care of it first.”

Harrel Deshazier, psychology major, and former Upward Bound resident mentor, found that he was able to provide multiple sources of support for his students and be a part of rewarding experience for both himself and his students.

“We’re not just doing academic stuff,” Deshazier said. “I’ve never done that many things in a summer, ever in my life. We went camping, on picnics, we went to Oregon for the Shakespeare festival. It was so great because all of them were into it… It just goes to show that underrepresented populations really have so much ability, it’s just the access.”

In order to prepare disadvantaged students, UB aims to bridge the gap that first generation students students have to deal with before arriving as college freshmen.

“They come from families that are low income and neither parent has a four year degree,” Canez said. “So they’re low income, first generation and there aren’t very many resources out there at these schools to provide students with information that they need for things like A-G requirements, SAT/ACT prep, making sure that they choose the right classes, and manage their time. I think that’s one of the biggest things, students being able to manage their time, especially when you come from communities where the kids have a lot of adult responsibilities.”

As a local student at Hoopa Valley High School and alumnus of the TRIO program, Canez always had a natural sense of curiosity and want to learn, but didn’t really value education.

“If it wasn’t for Upward Bound I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Canez said. “My mom finished the sixth grade before she stopped going to school and my father almost finished high school but he had to go to Vietnam. He didn’t finish school, he actually went into the military. They didn’t really excel in school and I didn’t have role models within my own home. As I grew up, they split up and between my third grade year to my freshman year in high school I went to 18 different schools. My goal was to drop out my sophomore year and become a mechanic, that’s all that I saw for myself and my future. I didn’t have anybody in my family who went to college or had any kind of experience with it, so I didn’t think that it was an option for me.”

Despite all impediments along the way, however, Canez began to value learning even more and found that there were more options than he could ever imagine.

“After my freshman year, I was living with a cousin in a laundry room,” Canez said. “I had a thin, little mattress on the floor where they moved the washer and dryer out and the roof would be leaking. When the Upward Bound staff came to my school and said I had to take classes, it wasn’t a big deal for me because I liked learning. But the kicker for me was that I would have a bed, three meals a day, and all I had to do was some school work over the summer and it would be a safe place to be. So that was a no brainer for me.”

While Canez’s story is unique, it’s a similar story that many students from a first generation, low-income background who come through the UB program share.

“We have the saying that, ‘UB lets you be you,’” Canez said. “It allows you for the first time to truly be who are and that’s what this program is all about… You’re surrounded by adults who want to help you realize your dream and we’ll do everything we can to help you figure out what that is. The entire staff, from the mentors to teachers to the administrative staff, we find out what seed is there in each one of our students’ heart and help it flourish.”

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YES House volunteers mentor students of Humboldt

By Hector Arzate
Flapjack staff

While most students at Humboldt State University are in class, learning at two in the afternoon on weekdays, volunteers for Study Buddies can be found doing some of the teaching at local schools in Humboldt county.

Study Buddies, formerly known as Tutorial, is one of 15 volunteer programs at the Youth Educational Services. Each of these programs serves a different community population in Humboldt County.

Started in 1969, Study Buddies is the oldest volunteer program at HSU, and provides youth tutoring and mentoring for local elementary school students around Arcata and Eureka. Jorge Reyes, 20, criminology and justice studies major, serves as the current program director and works to keep it running effectively.

“I facilitate the weekly meetings and workshop at the YES House on Thursday evenings from 6-7pm,” Reyes said. “I tend to keep my meetings structured informally because I want HSU student volunteers to engage in a comfortable setting that would translate into the close bond that we share with each other as volunteers of the community.” 

Originally a volunteer for a different program, Reyes’ intent was to complete the service learning component of a class three semesters ago, but he found more than academic credit at YES.

“I joined Study Buddies last semester to build my mentoring and tutoring skills with young, local elementary school students in Arcata and Eureka,” Reyes said. “I didn’t realize my path would lead me to where I am today as director for Study Buddies.”

As program director, Reyes describes Study Buddies’ service as an effort to provide those local students who are least likely to afford tutoring services with tutors who focus on the their needs to promote a healthy confidence boost in their learning experience.

“Getting involved with the Y.E.S. House and becoming a club director have amplified the activist sentiment to replacing old, worn out class materials and expanding select schools that we currently provide tutoring services,” Reyes said. “I am grateful for the dedicated volunteers that I currently have with me this semester because we share a common goal together here, and I am humbled to be a director for the longest active club at Y.E.S. The message has echoed for nearly 50 years now, and we are here to continue that echo for the future ahead.”

The experience has been equally rewarding for the program volunteers. Emily Policarpo, 20, anthropology major, felt that she has been able to provide a well-rounded educational experience for a range of the local youth.

“Study Buddies is able to offer different schools and age groups, from 4 to 12,” Policarpo said. “The majority of the focus is on homework days and tutoring, but there are also science Fridays where volunteers can come up with science activities to do with the kids.”

With low literacy and graduation rates throughout Humboldt County, it’s an important resource for the local community. Reyes expressed the deep impacts that access to education, or a lack thereof, can have on the youth and their future.

“Education is a crucial deal breaker for survival, for several reasons,” Reyes said. “For starters, we can at least acknowledge and agree that our level of knowledge depends on the quality of education that we receive. Brand new textbooks, safe classrooms, caring teachers, tutoring services, technological devices that are the newest up-to-date products the market has to offer for educational purposes. You’d imagine that a student’s possibility to fail would be slim and even if they did, the tutoring program would essentially provide a safety net for the student to bounce back from receiving a bad grade.”

However, Reyes also expressed that this is not the reality for most public schools, especially those within poor and rural communities like Humboldt County. Instead, they most often have little to no access to those resources.

“Now picture the opposite of what I described,” Reyes said. “Torn and used up textbooks, classrooms that are potential health hazards to children, careless teachers, no tutoring services, and technology devices that are older than the children themselves. This is the sour reality that many adults and youth have lived and continue to experience when attending schools in their local community.”

For student volunteers like Demi Cortez, 20, social work major, understanding systemic oppression and a generational lack of access to academic resources is crucial for being an effective tutor.

“He [Reyes] also breaks down ideas really well so that we can all understand them with a deeper meaning,” Cortez said. “For example, he once broke us up into two groups and had us each read a children’s story and then make an illustration that we thought captured the theme. Though most of us didn’t notice, one group was always at a disadvantage, their book was worn out, their paper was torn, they had less coloring supplies, etc. He then pointed out how these little things affected that group’s performance level, much like the way kids are affected when they attend an underprivileged school. I think that was much more effective than if he were to have just told us that some kids have it worse than others.”

Despite the disadvantages their students face, volunteers feel motivated to continue working with the children and making a difference. Under Reyes’ leadership, Study Buddies volunteers continue to draw inspiration from his enthusiasm for social change and education.

“He cares so much about it and his passion is contagious,” Cortez said. “All of the activities and group exercises are so well thought out, you really see how much effort he puts into them. It makes us all care too.”

Above all, Reyes feels that we all should work to change the narrative and change the lives of those students by working with them to find academic autonomy and encouragement from their community and within.

“Knowledge is power,” Reyes said. “We want these young local students to know that we are here for them. We care for their potential to reach academic success and we will continue to encourage them to solve homework problems and grow self-confidence… one fraction problem at a time.”

Community comes together for more than Moonlight’s accolades

By Hector Arzate

Flapjack staff

While you might expect most students at Humboldt State University to be crunching for homework or studying on a weeknight, the Kate Buchanan Room saw rows of chairs filled as if it were an early morning intro to biology course. The difference, however, is that nobody was struggling to stay awake and keep their eyes on the screen at the end of the room.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the department of Student Engagement And Leadership, in collaboration with the Queer Student Union, the Women’s Resource Center and the African American Center for Academic Excellence hosted a free screening and student panel discussion of the award winning film Moonlight.

Ketly Sylla, 19, sociology major and student staff at the African American Center for Academic Excellence felt the excitement and engagement from both audience and community members.

“Overall, it was a good turnout,” Sylla said. “We even had to bring in more chairs. Some people came for a class, some came to see it for the first time and some were even seeing it for the fifth time.”

The film, which has received more than eight Academy Award nominations and took home best motion picture at the Golden Globes, has received universal acclaim for everything from its cinematography to its diverse cast.

For students like Harrel Deshazier, 21, psychology major and student panelist, the film means more than the medium by which its measured.

“It is such a valuable film,” Deshazier said. “It tells a story that humanizes black people, something we don’t get to see often. And more so, queer black men who are always portrayed as hypersexual and aggressive. We don’t get to see the other side in movies.”

The panel consisted of three self-identifying queer people of color, Taiden Partlow, Malcolm Chanaiwa and Deshazier. However, it was open to comments and reactions from the audience as well.

Having seen the film more than once, Chanaiwa expressed the importance of both the film and the space that was held to discuss it.

“It is so powerful,” Chanaiwa said. “I cry whenever I think about it, and I think about it a lot. So it’s awesome that we can hold this space to view the movie and discuss what it means to us.”

One audience member who identified as a black Latina felt that she could relate to the diverse and inclusive themes throughout the film’s story.

“You don’t really see multiculturalism in identity portrayed in film,” she said. “Juan [Mahershala Ali’s character] is a black Cuban. So the scene where he said black people are everywhere was powerful to me. As a black Latina, that really impacted me, and it means a great deal to me.”