Making sure that every hungry mouth is fed at the Southwest Community Center is part of Jessie Allen’s day job at the food pantry, but her life’s philosophy as an academic advocate runs more along the lines of teaching parents and students to fish so they can eat for a lifetime.
The Santa Ana food pantry recently got a surprise when Leading Edge Learning Center stopped by to talk with parents during lunch hour about their free and low cost tutoring programs.
“We have access to a lot of parents of small children of elementary school age. [The representative] came here to talk to parents to get them access because a lot of parents just aren’t familiar with it,” said Mrs. Allen.
Leading Edge Learning Center works with school districts to help children from Kindergarten through 12th grade, often at free or reduced costs, and travels to tutor children at their schools, in libraries or in their homes. College students are also involved in the tutoring process with special attention to reading and math skills.
Mrs. Allen said that their top concern at the food bank is getting resources to low income families and to bring them to a point of self-sufficiency. She’s excited to see there are still some programs left with quality academic resources.
“We’re between two schools and trying to get the children into the program,” said Mrs. Allen, who is also a program director with College Bound/Tracey R. Young Scholarship Programs Community Mission Services Corporation. “They are part of the free school lunch program, and then the school district can set them up in the learning program.”
Most of the homeless that come through the food panty are there for free hot meals, but she said the Southwest Community Center helps over 200 local families and children each month that use many of their services, including food, clothing, rental and utility assistance.
“They are the working poor,” Jessie said. “They're stretching that income to pay for the exorbitant rent we have here.”
Over the years, Leading Edge Learning Center has been reaching both children and adult learners with targeted educational support.
Jo Anna Battle, program operations coordinator, said children in their program typically raise test scores one to two grade levels after only 36 hours of tutoring. Specialized testing also helps determine where the child needs the most help, focusing on the weakest areas to bring the child up to potential.
She said the program is an African American run nonprofit, holding contracts with several school districts, not counting their individual children and adult clients. Altogether, they serve over 1,100 children in their services areas, primarily within the Inland Empire.
“We have dedicated staff, and we not only meet the needs of the children, but if there is a family need, we try to get with them to get resources and referrals,” she said.
Through the SES [supplemental educational services] program, some school districts subsidize up to 23 hours of free tutoring. After that, she said the program can continue working with students on an affordable package. Qualifying parents that can’t afford to stay can also access in-house scholarships.
If for some reason a student doesn’t qualify for the Learning Center, she said that they refer out other resources so the child can receive the academic support they need.
“We just try to do whatever we can to work it out,” she said. “We all have masters and bachelors degrees. It is an awesome program.”
For more information, contact Leading Edge at 888-517-3522.