April 24, 2014

By Jennifer Bihm

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

“When it came time for me to think about how I could give back to my community, it ended up coming through school,” said Deanna Jordan, a UCLA student who has teamed up with the university’s Community Programs department to launch her Compton Task Force Project.

The year-old project is aimed at helping kids in Compton schools build the skills and garner the tools they need to effectively navigate their way through the K-12 system and transition to college.

“I saw the difference in how my boys, I have three sons, were being taught in Westwood and Brentwood, which was still LAUSD. But, when you go to Compton or LAUSD schools in the inner city it’s a completely different end of the spectrum. I couldn’t understand that.”

For example, explained Jordan who is a Compton native, when she was in high schooled being bused to the valley, ninth graders were doing algebra and calculus. But at Fremont High in Los Angeles, “we were barely doing geometry,” she said.

The Task Force Project is connected with a variety of other non profits, churches and schools, enabling Jordan to secure resources for her students as needed, whether it be for education or transitional assistance. Under Jordan's leadership, UCLA student volunteers travel to the city of Compton six days a week to work on academics with students at Carver Elementary School, which she herself attended, Willowbrook Middle School and King-Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science. On Saturdays, the students go into the center about 10:00 am. They begin tutoring at 10:45.

“If the student is having difficulty reading (for example) we work them on that. If they have homework over the weekend, we help them with that,” Jordan explained.

“With our high school students, we help them the transition from high school to college. We work on the senior portfolio…”

After tutoring, is a breakout session where the younger students are separated from the older ones. The groups engage in open dialogs and free writing projects.

“Outside of the tutoring that’s the most fulfilling part,” said Jordan.

“Because you have these youth who are opening up and divulging a lot of the things they are going through,” she said.

Because, coming from where they come from, she had gone through a lot of the same things.

Higher education and civic engagement weren’t always priorities in Jordan’s life. Just a decade ago, she was focused on finishing high school, getting married and starting a family. By the age of 18, she had done all three.

But as her views and goals evolved, Jordan decided that if she was ever going to establish a greater degree of financial security for her young family, something had to change.

“At the end of the day, I had to say that it was important to me,” Jordan said of her decision to go to college. “I had to want it. Nobody could want it for me. Nobody.”

So just 12 days after her youngest son was born, she started sociology classes at West Los Angeles Community College.

“I returned to school on June 8, 2008, and I never stopped,” said Jordan, who earned an associate of arts degree from community college and transferred to UCLA in 2011. Jordan, a first-generation college student, has been honored as a departmental scholar at UCLA, allowing her to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degrees concurrently. Ultimately, she plans to work in a field that will allow her to advocate for marginalized people and communities, she said.

Category: News

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