When Mixtly Galarza found herself struggling her junior year of high school, she knew exactly where to go for help.
Galarza lives near the CSUF Center for Healthy Neighborhoods. Her mother is a regular fixture at the Center, organizing events and leading special projects as president of the Center’s community leaders group. Her siblings and cousins are enrolled in the Center’s after-school tutoring program.
Galarza signed up for the Center’s twice-weekly tutoring sessions. She worked through biology and math assignments, and learned new studying techniques. With her grades up, Galarza and her tutors turned their attention to college applications.
Today, 18-year old Galarza is enjoying her second semester as a Titan.
“I'm the first in my family to get into college and that, for us, is a huge deal. My family isn’t able to help my siblings and me with our homework. And not because they don’t want to. It’s just that they don’t speak the language well or they don’t understand the material. This is true for a lot of kids in the neighborhood,” says Galarza.
Launched in 2016, the Center’s after-school tutoring and mentoring program provides homework help and academic support to students from local elementary, middle, and high schools. The program’s tutors, College of Health and Human Development and other Cal State Fullerton students completing course-related internship hours, weave in discussions on college plans during each one to two-hour session.
“The children in our tutoring and mentoring program are from low-income families, with most parents only speaking Spanish at home. Many of our tutors come from similar backgrounds and are often first in their families to attend college. When the children are mentored by Cal State Fullerton students who have backgrounds similar to them, they are empowered and inspired to believe it’s possible for them to go to college too,” says Center Director Dr. Jessie Jones.
Human Services major Amelia Campoa and recent Health Science graduate Amy Santos coordinate the program. Together, they organize tutoring services for approximately 60 students a semester.
“I’m very passionate about breaking academic barriers. As a Health Science major, I see things from a public health perspective. Children in the Center’s tutoring program are mostly at risk for gang activity and teen pregnancy. The program reduces these risks and improves educational outcomes, which reduces the risk of homelessness and improves the quality of living of the Richman community itself,” says Santos.
“We take pride in that we’re also a mentoring program. Our tutors help provide a vision for the overall goal, which is to obtain a higher education and a better quality of life," adds Campoa.According to the 2017 Orange County Community Indicators Report, Latino students are the least likely ethnic group to be college eligible but comprise 44% of all high school graduates. Language barriers, financial constraints, family obligations, and parent’s education attainment help drive this achievement gap.
However, with time, support, and instruction that focuses on their unique needs, students from disadvantaged backgrounds can meet—and surpass—academic standards. One-on-one attention like the individualized support provided by the Center’s tutoring program helps students develop better study habits, increases knowledge of core subjects, and often sparks a passion for learning—essential skills for succeeding in and out of the classroom.
Galarza hopes to ignite such passion for children in her community. She’s helping local third graders conquer math and language arts as a tutor at the Center.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the program because I’m helping and giving back, just like the way the program did with me. It's rewarding to be on the other side.”