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Two schools get Big Brothers Big Sisters program
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Two schools get Big Brothers Big Sisters program

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乐动体育A new partnership between Selma’s Heartland High School and Eric White Elementary School is starting that Big Brothers Big Sisters Director Alex Huerta describes as a win-win situation.

“Working with a continuation school is a new challenge for us; it’s something different,” Huerta said during a ribbon-cutting at the school on March 1 celebrating the new partnership. “But it’s something we believe in. We believe in giving those kids the opportunity to find a new way.”

乐动体育Huerta said that although it’s an atypical arrangement among the 16 after-school programs already operating in the region, it gives non-traditional students a chance to take on a new responsibility.

Selma Unified already partners with program, in which Selma High students mentor 43 students at Garfield and Roosevelt schools. The younger students, known as Littles, get help with homework, do crafts, take field trips and have meals after school.

In this new partnership, 20 Eric White students have been chosen and four Heartland High students will serve as their mentors, also known as Bigs. More high school mentors are being interviewed, Heartland Principal Drew Sylvia said.

乐动体育“Heartland’s always had that connotation that this is where all the bad kids go,” he said. “Like (Mayor Scott) Robertson said, there are no bad kids. It’s what we do with our kids and move forward and how we see them. Now, other people need to count on them to be there, to be responsible, to set that tone as we move forward.”

乐动体育Eric White Principal Sandra Aguilera said the partnership gives younger students another person to help guide them through school.

“[The Bigs] are someone to look up to that’s older than them that they may open to and get some guidance in the challenges that may come up in school,” she said.

The Selma Health Care District is funding $60,000 in total for the first three years of the program.

乐动体育Since Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit, they reached out to the health care district as potential sponsor, Coordinator Elizabeth Smith said. The organization presented the idea to Selma Unified School District Superintendent Tanya Fisher, who then shared the concept with Sylvia and Aguilera.

“Once the Selma Health Care District heard the proposal, they jumped on board,” Smith said. “In the same manner as Dr. Fisher, both principals, Drew Sylvia and Sandra Aguilera, were receptive to the opportunity and have been on board from day one.”

乐动体育Andy Montijo serves on both the Selma Health Care District and Selma Unified boards and said that as a former Big Brother himself, he is “super excited” about the program.

“It was a very rewarding experience of building trust and friendship. Our community’s hope is to always keep kids engaged in positive programs, activities to help build character and compassion for themselves which, in the long run, will reduce violence.”

Fifth-grader Faith Vasquez already participated in the program when she attended Roosevelt and said she’s looking forward to it again at Eric White.

“We go outside, read and do homework. It’s fun because I’ve been at it at Roosevelt. We go to Adventure Water Park and other trips.”

Heartland High students Amarissa Arroyo, Odalis Castillo and Maria Gomez say they’re eager to step into their roles and help the younger students.

“It’s an opportunity to have a relationship with someone I didn’t have as a kid,” Arroyo said. “I feel like it’s a second chance to fix my mistakes and help them not make those mistakes.”

Gomez also thinks the partnership will help change the perception of their campus among the community.

“We have really big hearts. It’s amazing that they chose our school to do this.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com

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