The UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows are proud to award Project Working for Immigrant Literacy Development (Project WILD) with the Winter 2015 Mongelli Award for Excellence and Civic Engagement. Project WILD is a student run community service organization in the USAC Community Service Commission that provides free, weekly English tutoring and mentorship services to students grades 2– 5 in the Garvey and Los Angeles Unified School Districts.
Entering their 28th year of service, Project WILD continues to rigorously work towards improving their tutees’ English reading, writing, and grammar abilities. Project WILD has two sites, one in Temple City and one in Arlington. They primarily cater to first and second generation immigrant students, many of whom are from families that are unfamiliar with the American education system. A majority of the students are not exposed to English at home and lack the confidence and skills to properly speak and use English. Therefore, one of their main goals is to instill the confidence and abilities in their tutees to achieve any and all of their dreams.
At the beginning of every quarter, the tutees are required to take a diagnostic exam based on the core state standards. These exams divide the tutees into four different levels – ESL, beginning, intermediate and advanced. Project WILD directors work hard every week to tailor the curriculum and to make sure that it is up to par. Besides getting feedback from tutors and tutees about the curriculum, Project WILD also reaches out to UCLA faculty. Dr. Linda Jensen from the Center for World Languages shared her professional advice on how to successfully teach a second language. Project WILD makes an effort to communicate with parents, teachers and principals for feedback as well. Their efforts to improve the curriculum every week show that the Project WILD directors and tutors are incredibly passionate about what they do.
Every quarter presents the opportunity to introduce the tutees to different themes, activities and field trips. However, the most important objective is to expose them to higher education. Project WILD gives their tutees a creative space to explore different subjects that might pique their interest. Every spring quarter, Project WILD invites their tutees to Project Bruin, an event hosted by the Community Service Commission, in hopes to inspire and motivate them to apply to college. Not only does Project WILD want their tutees to associate college with a positive and eye opening experience, they also want to provide tutees with opportunities that they might not experience within a classroom.
Besides prioritizing exposure to higher education, Project WILD also dedicates a lot of their time fostering relationships between tutors and tutees. One of Garima Verma’s (co-executive director for Arlington) proudest moments was when one of her Spanish-speaking tutees finally felt comfortable saying a sentence in English for the first time. She felt that her perseverance and patience in their tutor-tutee relationship really had an impact on the young girl. Project WILD as a whole strives to build lasting relationships no matter where they are. Many students that graduate from the program return as student volunteers. They get to be on the other side, assisting Project WILD directors in running the sites every week.
For their commitment to tutoring and mentoring, the UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows have chosen Project World for Immigrant Literacy Development as one of the recipients of the Winter 2015 Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement.