The Incarcerated Youth Tutorial Project (IYTP) has been selected as one of the winners of the Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement for Fall 2013. Founded circa 1988 by the Muslim Student Union, IYTP works to provide resources and mentorship to incarcerated youth who don’t have sufficient academic and social development. The project further aims to change and challenge social institutions that dictate and enforce the School-to-Prison pipeline, a social pattern where disadvantaged and minority students are (both actively and passively) pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system through lack of proper educational and social assistance.
Currently, there are 25 to 30 students who regularly attend sites; up to 50 volunteers attend more sporadically. A typical day for an IYTP volunteer begins at 5:00 PM on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Volunteers prepare for their mentorship session for 15 minutes; they leave UCLA for their site, Camp Miller in Malibu, at 5:15 PM. On the van ride to site, volunteers have a chance to discuss various social topics with each other, engaging in critical questioning and discussion. Arriving at 6:30 PM, the volunteers begin working with students with a check-in question and a quick discussion on relevant social topics (Treyvon Martin, gender equality, gay rights, etc.) before splitting into tutoring groups. Mentors are paired with the same mentees for each week to encourage relationship building in the students. At 7:45 PM, the volunteers clean up and head back to campus. On the car ride home, volunteers will have a chance to share the challenges from the day’s tutoring session. Maha Kazmi, Executive Project Director, describes her volunteering experience as eye-opening: “Many challenges and obstacles these kids face are out of their control. We teach them not only to read and to write, but also to be agents of change.”
IYTP currently has an English, Language-Arts, and Mathematics focused curriculum. Tutoring sessions begin with Six Minute Solutions, an assessment tool introduced by Development Coordinator, Michael Oshiro, to provide accurate evaluation of a student’s reading and math levels. After testing the student’s current standing, a GED-focused curriculum is developed for each student to help them learn.
Project Directors, Coordinators, and volunteers of IYTP pride themselves in their staunch commitment to not only helping mentor incarcerated youth, but also in their activism within the community. Recently, IYTP participated in the IGNITE campaign, hosted by the Social Justice Caucus of the Community Programs Office Student Association and the USAC External Vice President Office. IYTP also organized the Trayvon Martin vigil, held to protest the decision of the infamous case. “We were all very angry and very upset by it,” says Michael, “We felt like there was a lack of awareness at UCLA [over the Trayvon Martin case], and that we had an obligation to respond.”
IYTP’s ultimate goal is to completely eliminate the School-to-Prison pipeline. In the meantime, they aim to alleviate stunted social and academic development experienced by incarcerated students by providing resources. One way in which they are responding to the needs of their students is by expanding on their curriculum. This coming Winter Break, when many students will be relaxing with families, IYTP Project Directors and Coordinators will be hard at work developing a new science and social sciences curriculum to further help their students pass their GED’s. To do this, they draw from Michael’s extensive experience in teaching (Michael is a Ph.D. student in Special Education, and was once a history teacher) and from various famous educators, including Paulo Freire and his work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. “We want to flip the traditional tutor-student model,” says Michael, “We want to learn from the students themselves. We want to be equal.”
Five project directors are working to coordinate IYTP’s programs: Maha Kazmi, Project Director; Ayesha Khan, Assistant Project Director; Michael Oshiro, Development Coordinator; Jessica Rayside, Outreach Coordinator; and Jason Gosschalk, Site Coordinator. The Volunteer Center Fellows would like to congratulate them, and the volunteers of IYTP, for their excellent work in the community.
Winter quarter applications for IYTP will be available soon. If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit IYTP’s Facebook page, or website.