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LAKE VIEW TERRACE : Couple Teaches Children to Handle Stress

He fought during recess. He didn’t do homework, wouldn’t cooperate with classmates, was hypersensitive to criticism and responded poorly to discipline.

Despite his history, 9-year-old Grant Carter of Mission Hills has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past five months, said his mother, Judy Carter.

Like other parents, Carter attributes the change to a program run by Janet and Walter Jackson, a husband and wife who started an after-school tutoring and self-esteem program in Lake View Terrace called Believe In Yourself Inc.

“The fights have stopped, and the principal doesn’t call me anymore,” said Carter, who enrolled Grant in the free program in December. “He has his homework done before he gets home, and his teacher says he’s helping other kids. If he’s upset with me, he’ll say, ‘Mom, what you just said to me hurt my feelings,’ instead of walking away and hiding. Our communication is better, and it’s at a lower volume.”

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Building communication skills is at the heart of the nonprofit program, which provides elementary school students a safe, educational, emotionally supportive environment.

At the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, where space for the program is donated by the by the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department, about 32 youngsters receive extra help with homework, talk through and solve problems during group “anger sessions,” and practice relaxation and stress-control techniques.

The Jacksons, who live in Lake View Terrace, began the program after a frustrating experience during the adoption of their son, Devon, in 1990. It was during that process that the Jacksons learned about the severe--and unmet--emotional and educational needs of foster children and other disadvantaged kids. They decided to try to make a difference, beginning in their own community.

Alan L. McCall, principal at Brainard Elementary School in Lake View Terrace, who has referred students to the Jacksons’ program, said the Los Angeles Unified School District is considering providing space to the organization at the school.

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“We have had other after-school programs that deal with various parts of what they’re doing, but nothing that is as comprehensive in concept,” McCall said. “They are a tremendous asset.”

Recently during an anger session, Alina Hall, 10, addressed the group, explaining that her grandmother had been hospitalized recently by a stroke. “If my grandmother was to die, I wouldn’t have nobody to live with,” Alina said.

“What do you think you can do to feel better--how can we help her?” Janet Jackson asked the group.

Grant Carter was the first to respond. “If you feel scared about it, shake your head, and go someplace where it’s quiet to think. Or you could go visit her and talk about it, or maybe write her a letter . . .” In the end, the entire group agreed to write to Alina’s grandmother.

Though Believe In Yourself began in October, it already is filled to capacity. Limited funding has prevented expansion.

“There are so many kids in need,” said Walter Jackson, 45, whose salary as a federal employee helps fund the program. “We’ve got to start getting everybody in the community involved with our youth.”

Janet Jackson, 43, a retired network television publicist, agreed. “If these children don’t know how to handle stress--and they have a lot of stress nowadays--and solve problems, and if they don’t know the importance of doing well academically by the time they get to high school, it may be too late.”

For information about the program, call (818) 896-8288.

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