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STUDENTS TURN KING VERDICT ANGER INTO PUBLIC SERVICE
STANFORD -- Seven months after the Rodney King verdict reaped anger and despair, Stanford University students are planting seeds of hope.
Working two afternoons a week in a local Baptist church, members of the university's new Community Action Coalition have begun after-school tutoring sessions for disadvantaged teenagers from nearby East Palo Alto, Calif. Other Stanford students are working to connect the high schoolers with summer jobs.
The idea for the Community Action Coalition was born while the embers still were smoking in Los Angeles.
"The times were crazy," recalled Stanford senior Tracy Clay, who then helped organize peaceful protest marches on campus and meetings with East Palo Alto community leaders.
"We were very concerned that this not be a one-time event," she said. "We wanted to translate our anger into long-term action."
Stanford students have a long record of service in East Palo Alto, a predominantly black and Latino community about five miles from campus.
Almost 200 trained Stanford students each year work with elementary school children in the Ravenswood-Stanford Tutoring Program. Another 120 serve as volunteer elementary school coaches and health educators for Project TEAM (Together Each Accomplishes More). Stanford students also run the annual East Palo Alto/Stanford Summer Academy, a six-week day-camp offering language and mathematics classes, computer training and recreation for about 24 middle school students.
After the King verdict, East Palo Alto church and community leaders suggested that programs were needed for older students as well.
"There are so few programs for kids 15 and older - it's as if there were a glass ceiling," Clay said. "The programs that did exist tended to be for the college bound. We wanted to work with kids who are more at risk."
About 20 teenage participants come to the Jerusalem Baptist Church in Palo Alto for two hours of tutoring every Monday and Wednesday. Most find out about the Knowledge Sharing Program by word of mouth, through pastors, friends and community leaders.
In addition to the tutoring sessions, the high school students participate in such activities as drama, journalism and community service, "to give them a sense of responsibility," Clay said.
In addition, the Community Action Coalition provides job training and placement. Last summer, 21 teenagers from East Palo Alto and surrounding communities received training from Students Offering Alternative Realities (SOAR) and were placed in jobs on campus, usually at the student union and in dormitory dining halls.
This year, about 30 teenagers are learning job skills through the program, including how to work with computers, how to behave at a job interview, how to write a resume and how to build on their skills to become managers.
"The idea is to encourage responsibility," said coordinator A.J. Robinson, a Stanford junior. "We tell these kids that if they take responsibility for their academic life by participating in the tutoring program, we'll give them the opportunity to learn skills that will make them employable."
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