Education Feature: Tutors advise college-bound Hispanic pupils

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Luis Campoz of Clovis tutors Olivia Wilson, a Clovis junior, in geometry Wednesday at the Lincoln-Jackson Family Center after school. Campoz has tutored for three years with the Engaging Latino Communities in Education program.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Alexandra Garcia was working through a math problem, but the numbers were not adding up.

After setting aside the homework for a slice of pizza, the Clovis High sophomore asked math tutor Luis Campoz for help.

Garcia is part of a growing number of Clovis students enrolled in a tutoring program started last year at the Lincoln-Jackson Family Center designed to prepare them for college.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for us,” said Garcia, who hopes to enter the nursing program at the University of Texas-Houston. She would be the first in her family to go to college.

Called Engaging Latino Communities in Education, the program also involves parents in their children’s education, according program coordinator Sylvia Montano.

“The goal of ENLACE is to work with the community at the grassroots level and build a pipeline to our community colleges, universities and schools of vocational education,” she said.

The program will recruit students from Clovis Community College in October to tutor students at the center, Montano said.

“It is our hope that through the tutorial part, some mentoring can occur where they can be influenced positively by someone that is already pursuing their education, and maybe someone that also has had hardships and has encountered obstacles,” she said.

About 20 students receive tutoring at the center Mondays through Thursdays, according to the center’s home-liaison, Mary Helen Urioste. Tutors helped 47 students last year, she said.

The program has recruited parent-liaisons, Montano said, who act as intermediaries between the school and parents.

Most parents, said parent-liaison Linda Sephas, aren’t comfortable talking to teachers or school administrators.

“They feel like they’re not socially or academically at their level,” she said.

With another parent in the room, she said, teachers can explain what parents can do to resolve issues concerning their child’s education.

“What we’re going to do is teach parents to be advocates for their children,” she said.

Sephas said she is recruiting more parents as liaisons for all Clovis schools.

The program is in many school districts throughout the country and has been in New Mexico for seven years, said program executive director Karen Griego-Sanchez. About 5,400 New Mexico students from kindergarten to the 12th grade participate in the program. The New Mexico program has received about $1.3 million from state legislators this year.

The Southeastern district, which covers Clovis, Portales and Roswell, received a quarter of the money, which will be used to create more family centers and pay for tutors and activities for students and parents, Montano said.