By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Citiies
RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities has joined forces with a local youth-operated program to grow its home-based extracurricular learning opportunities in a community in east Pasco.
The organization, Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS), originated several years ago when Lakeview community youth wanted to improve their neighborhood through offering child friendly activities, leadership building opportunities and additional academic resources right in their home area.
“We started a program because there were a lot of kids running around, and it used to be a place known for drugs and alcohol,” said Brenda Yepez, ALAS mentor, resident of the Lakeview community and a WSU Tri-Cities student. “We didn’t want to see that anymore, so we started offering activities for the kids, and then started doing these summer camps.”
They since have partnered with multiple WSU Tri-Cities education faculty to grow their academic offerings, including building annual summer camps to offer lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
WSU students teach classes
“Two years ago, they (ALAS) asked if WSU would be willing to help, and we came up with a plan to have our introduction to education class teach daily at the camps,” said Jonah Firestone, assistant professor of education at WSU Tri-Cities. “I told my students to create all the curriculum for Monday through Friday classes every morning. It’s been a great opportunity, both for the kids in the community and for our WSU students.”
This year, Firestone also partnered with associate education professor Eric Johnson, and they split the camp days into English and Spanish offerings to create an academic bilingual component for the camps. Johnson has taken his education students to work in Pasco schools and with the ALAS program for the past eight years.
“My class did the Spanish lessons on Monday and Wednesday and Jonah did the lessons on Tuesday and Thursday in English,” Johnson said of the new structure for the camps. “It worked out really well and the feedback from my students is that they really enjoyed it.”
English, Spanish classes
Firestone said by offering the instruction in both languages, it allows the students to learn the material first in many of the community youth’s native language, and then the lesson is reinforced through the English language, which provides them a greater grasps of the concepts.
Maite Cruz, president of the ALAS program and resident of the Lakeview community, said they are glad to partner with WSU Tri-Cities for the camps, as it provides both parties with learning opportunities.
“Our first year of the camps was a little difficult because we didn’t have the experience on what to teach them,” she said. “But since we partnered with WSU, we’ve been able to expand our academic offerings to be a true benefit to the kids in our community.”
Aligning curriculum with culture
In addition to the academic offerings for the children in the community, Firestone said the partnership has presented an opportunity to educate their WSU students about the value of creating curriculum that aligns with the culture and environment of the students they’re educating.
“We wanted to get these pre-service teachers out into the community to engage in these kids’ culture and create curriculum based on where they are,” he said. “No kid has all the experiences as other kids, but there are areas where we can introduce concepts and curriculum based on the similar experiences of these kids. They then get to see that put into practice and how successful it makes the kids’ learning. It’s been a real benefit to my students.”
Working in Pasco schools
Johnson said WSU Tri-Cities sends many of its pre-service teachers into Pasco schools to work with students as part of their educational experience.
“So for the students who have the chance with the Lakeview community in these camps or in our classes, they have a better appreciation for the resources that Lakeview offers,” he said. “They also see a lot of the students in the schools in their practicum.”
“For the students who get jobs in Kennewick or Richland, they are also more open to doing community visits because they have had that training and can apply what they’ve learned in the community to the classroom,” he said.
- Jonah Firestone, assistant professor of education and director of the WSU Tri-Cities VITAL lab, 509-372-7198, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Eric Johnson, associate professor of education, WSU Tri-Cities, 509-372-7304, email@example.com
- Maegan Murray, public relations specialist, WSU Tri-Cities 509-372-7333, Maegan.firstname.lastname@example.org