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GARDEN GROVE : A Place for Help With Homework

Elizabeth Kiriakos says she “just loves” to go to the tutoring lab at Clinton Elementary School.

“It helps you to understand your work,” the 10-year-old said. “There’s always someone there for you if you need help.”

“One of my rules is always to do my homework,” she said. “I used to get Bs and Cs, and now I get A’s and Bs. It makes my father happy.”

Elizabeth and 50 to 60 other boys and girls attend the Clinton Kids Club Tutoring Lab that the Garden Grove Girls Club started in January to help children overcome language problems that can impair their education.

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English is the second language for about 80% of the Clinton pupils, who sometimes have trouble getting help at home with their schoolwork, according to Director Jeannie Salazar. Frequently, both parents work and there is no adult supervision in the afternoons, she said.

Part-time staff members and about 10 volunteers coach the youngsters every weekday afternoon. The volunteer instructors, including several young men from the predominantly Latino community, also serve as good role models, Salazar said.

The main goal is to reinforce schoolwork. But the program also helps youngsters feel good about school and themselves and keeps them off the street and out of trouble, Salazar said.

Barbara Radcliff, who teaches fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade English Plus classes to pupils receiving English classes for the first time, said that tutoring makes a dramatic difference in children’s attitudes.

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“One of my sixth-grade girls got 100% on her math for the first time, and she was so excited when she came to tell me about it,” Radcliff said. “She was glad to be able to do better. She was no longer anxious about coming to school.”

There are benefits beyond academics, Radcliff said. “It gives the kids a place to stay and not just to watch television or hang out,” she said.

Salazar, the tutoring lab director, said the Girls Club is financing the program through a $300,000 grant from the California Youth Authority.

There are plans to buy two modular trailers that will be installed on the Clinton campus this summer, she said. The lab is expected to expand to morning sessions in September.

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The tutoring is being offered in the school’s multipurpose room.

After they complete their homework, the kids get to play chess and checkers and other games in which they have to use their brains.

Tran Vu, 8, who wants to be a teacher, was getting help on her spelling and math. She likes games the best, though, she said.

Before each session, Salazar asks the lively but well-behaved children to recite lab rules that they themselves drew up.

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“We remind them that these are their rules, and we don’t have any trouble,” she said.

No running, skidding or sliding is allowed in the room, the children decided. Other rules are: no spitting (inside or out), no bad words or cussing, no throwing of food, keep hands and feet to one’s self and show respect to adults and other kids.

Speakers are scheduled later this spring to encourage youngsters to steer clear of gang activities.

The children in the program are classified as being at risk because they lack afternoon supervision or have learning problems because of language barriers, Salazar said.

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