July 23 2012
The United Community Center offers year-round education to hundreds of Milwaukee's Latino students. It operates the Bruce Guadalupe Community School, providing tuition-free elementary and middle school education. And it's seeing major success, boasting a 96 percent attendance rate and a 97 percent retention rate for returning students.
The UCC couldn't do it without its high school and college-aged mentors. It's a program called Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC), which connects nearly 200 young adults with the UCC's young students. The YVC act as mentors to the children, as well as leading them in recreational activities.
But academics come first.
During the summer, elementary and middle school students spend their mornings in the classroom. They review lessons from the past year, and they prep for the grade to come. In the afternoon, however, the children get a break from the classroom to enjoy some outdoor fun. On the day I visited, the kids were excited to go swimming at a Pewaukee lake.
Pedro Hernandez is a long-time participant at the UCC. After completing elementary and middle school at Bruce Guadalupe, he went on to volunteer as a youth mentor during high school. Now in college, he's a part time employee, leading the other youth mentors.
"I basically grew up at the non-profit. It was an amazing place. It was like a second family to me," Hernandez said.
When Pedro came to the UCC, he spoke only minimal English. He says one of the reasons he became a volunteer was to help struggling students overcome the challenges he faced as a child. The UCC literally changed his life.
"Volunteering is really the thing that makes us connect with another person," he said. "Not see statistics, not see people as numbers, but see them as what they are -- human beings."
To connect with the many programs the UCC has to offer, visit its website.
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