The UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows have chosen Project B.R.I.T.E. to receive the Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement for Winter Quarter 2013. Since 1970, Project B.R.I.T.E. (Bruins Reforming Incarceration Through Education) has been dedicated to tutoring and mentoring young men between the ages of 14 and 18 living in juvenile detention camps. Their main goal is to reduce the rate of re-offenses of these young men by providing them with mental support and means for a better life.
Twice a week for two hours, Project B.R.I.T.E. sends their 22 volunteers to Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu. On site, dedicated UCLA volunteers are paired with mentees who receive customized one-on-one tutoring and mentoring. The customized tutoring process B.R.I.T.E. uses makes their organization unique by developing a curriculum based on mentee needs and requests. Much of the tutoring specifically focuses on the California High School Exit Exam and the GED to ensure mentees graduate high school and receive a high school diploma.
On top of tutoring the participants in school related homework, volunteers provide invaluable advice for mentees to help them finish high school and continue on to college. B.R.I.T.E. volunteers help their mentees complete job applications, teach them about the importance of going to college, help them fill out the FAFSA, and teach other important career skills. One of the directors of the program, Chanell Grismore, a fourth year Biology major, helped one of her mentees get accepted into college and receive a $1,000 scholarship. Reflecting on the program, Chanell stated that “due to our tutoring helping him get to college, it became evident to me that our efforts are truly making a lasting impact.” Furthermore Chanell explains that the charm of B.R.I.T.E is that “many student programs focus on saving the community whereas B.R.I.T.E. shows individuals how to save themselves.”
Hoping to bridge the gap between mentoring and real life application of newly acquired skills, B.R.I.T.E. has begun bringing their mentees to UCLA once a quarter in order to tour the campus. These visits allow the mentees to get a hands-on experience with the college atmosphere while addressing their concerns about college. For example, many of the participants worry that their inadequate education has hindered the development of their intellectual abilities and fear this would put them at a huge disadvantage if they were to attend college. In response, B.R.I.T.E teaches their mentees about resources that can help them pass these barriers and provide the students with the confidence to overcome such challenges.
Recently, Project B.R.I.T.E. has expanded their program to include mentoring previously incarcerated youth with an organization called New Roads for New Vision. New Roads for New Vision follows young men from the probation camps to being released allowing B.R.I.T.E. volunteers with a unique opportunity to continue working with their mentees. Many times after these young men are released from probation camps, there are no sources of support so they end up in the same communities, environment, and mentality that got them to their low point in the first place. The continuation of B.R.I.T.E. volunteers supporting their mentees helps ensure the young men stay on the right track to a more noble and fulfilling path.
Project B.R.I.T.E. continues to be one of the only student organizations at UCLA specifically working with incarcerated youth. They provide their volunteers with a very special and unique opportunity that would not be possible without their persistent efforts to support a neglected portion of our society. If interested in participating with Project B.R.I.T.E., recruitment will be held in Fall 2013. For more information to get involved, please email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.