Celebrate CLASP at volunteer appreciation event on Sunday

There’s a certain kind of buzz when you walk into the fellowship room at Claremont Presbyterian Church—dozens of elementary school kids hitting the books and getting homework help.

The kids are part of CLASP—Claremont After School Program—a city program formed to help kids with their homework.

According to former CLASP president Teddie Warner, who was at Claremont Presbyterian on Tuesday afternoon, the group started as two separate groups in the mid 1990s, eventually merging into one in 2005 as part of the Claremont Youth Master Plan.

“We say it started in 2005, but it’s really ten years older than that,” Ms. Warner said.

CLASP has two-hour programs at five non-school sites around the city, including Claremont Presbyterian, Blaisdell Park, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Wheeler Park and Claremont Village Apartments.

Kids are either shuttled to the sites (or walk, in the case of kids from Mountain View Elementary to Claremont Presbyterian) and spend half the time working on homework and the other half in physical activity.

Each site contains up to 30 kids per session, Ms. Warner said. The program aims for one-on-one student-tutor interaction to get the maximum amount of help.

Around 80 percent of students in the program have been referred by their teachers, and usually need help with math, English and other subjects.

“Just to have that mentoring relationship is very nice,” Ms. Warner said. “Having another adult who cares about them.”

Often times, the kids are treated to a demonstration of real-world skills. Recently, Ms. Warner said, a professor came in and taught kids about civil engineering and other STEM programs. The kids were tasked with building structures out of hard linguine and gumdrops to see how many marbles they could hold.

“One boy built one strong enough to hold 120 marbles,” Ms. Warner said.

Tutors come from all different ages and backgrounds, from high school and college students looking for school credit, to retirees looking to help the community.

Lauren Cassatt, a site supervisor who herself was a tutor for two years, became part of the program after she retired as a high school librarian in Aspen, Colorado and moved to Claremont.

As a site supervisor, Ms. Cassatt is in charge of matching students to tutors. She tries to match the same kids with the same tutors in order to foster a bond.

“My philosophy is the connection they’re making with the tutor,” she said. “They have this really great connection with another adult.”

Ms. Cassatt shared that the kids always come to CLASP eager to learn.

“They’re never absent, these kids are here all the time,” Ms. Cassatt said.

Ms. Warner shared the story of an older student who would “burst into tears” when she did her math homework. CLASP found the right tutor for her, and they worked together throughout the year. By the end of the school year, she was raising her hand in class and helping other kids with their math homework.

“It was truly phenomenal,” Ms. Warner said.

The students also receive a lunch every day, with milk cartons and cups with their names on them. Each tutoring session lasts one hour. After that, the two groups switch in a furious five minutes of shuffling sneakers and bouncing backpacks. Ms. Cassatt calls it “controlled chaos.”

One tutor at Claremont Presbyterian is 23-year-old Joseph Azucena, a business administration student at University of La Verne. He’s relatively new to CLASP, having started in August as a way to do extra volunteer work.

Mr. Azucena was working with two children—11-year-old Emilio and 10-year-old Israel—on their decimal homework. Despite being part of the program for a short time, Mr. Azucena already has a success story.

“One kid was having trouble in math, and he got a B on his test,” Mr. Azucena said. “He was so hyped.”

In appreciation for the people involved in CLASP, the program is throwing an annual party on Sunday, November 12 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the home of University of La Verne president Devorah Lieberman at 1105 N. College Ave. The event will feature hors d’oeuvres, live music and the chance to win a “wine wagon,” according to Cindy Sullivan of CLASP, who is a member of CLASP’s development committee.

The celebration costs $75 per person to attend, and you can RSVP at the CLASP website at clasp4kids.org

—Matthew Bramlett



[Ed. note: This story has been changed to correct CLASP development committee member Cindy Sullivan’s name. The COURIER regrets the error.]


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