Guadalupe Learning Lab aims to help students graduate high school

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The Guadalupe Learning Lab is run by volunteers with the goal of helping local students graduate high school and prepare them for what’s next.

Sitting between Phoenix an Tempe, the town of Guadalupe is a center where cultures are combined and celebrated. The town’s roots are in the Yaquis, Mexicans and descendants of the original farmers. However, the children of the town are falling behind. Sixty one percent of Guadalupe kids graduate high school compared to the 79 percent statewide.

“We asked the community where I lived what do you want,” Director of Guadalupe Learning Lab Marina Gonzalez says. “How can we help? They needed help with homework. A lot of the parents didn’t know how to help them.”

Gonzalez didn’t graduate from high school, and neither did her parents. She wanted that trend to stop at her. She says the only way she could make sure her kids graduated was by investing her time in their education. Once she started investing her time into her own kids, she felt inspired to help other kids as well.

“I felt like there were programs out there to help them, but if you don’t have that relationship with people they’ll never go to them,” Gonzalez says. “I felt like the most important thing is to have a relationship with the people you’re going to work with and the people you want to help.”

The kids will often teach each other. The older students will work with the younger ones in between finishing their own homework. There are also members of the community who enjoy spending their free time by tutoring at the learning lab. Gonzalez says if you can sit and listen to someone read, you’re a tutor.

“There’s one girl over there today that part of the reason she graduated from Corona was because of my helping her,” Rick Mason, a volunteer at the learning lab, says.

Adelina Valencia’s children attend the Guadalupe Learning Lab after school. She says it’s a family-oriented environment. Most of the kids grew up together, and they enjoy helping each other succeed.

The learning lab has been open for six years and has moved three times because they keep outgrowing their space. They’re opened three days a week during the school year and offer summer programs. Keep up with the learning lab on Facebook.

Jose: Guadalupe lags behind the rest of the state in graduation rates and household income but the town is pushing back against poverty. Lisa Adams takes a look at a homegrown program that helps kids get through school and stay in Guadalupe.

PKG: You have math homework now?

PKG: There is a lot of persistence. They understand help and persistence are required from everyone.

PKG: Maybe. Sure.

Reporter: In this tutoring center, crayons and calculus share desk space, free staffed almost entirely with volunteers from the community. It all started with a question.

We asked the community where I live what do you want? Not what we want. What do you want? How can we help? They needed help with homework.

PKG: Marina Gonzalez wasn't sure she could help but knew she wanted to try because she understood better than most what education meant.

Marina Gonzalez I didn't graduate from high school. A lot of my family members didn't graduate from high school. But I wanted my kids to graduate. I felt like the only way I could make sure my kids graduated is I invest my time in their education. While doing that, I could invest my time in other kids’ education.

PKG: 61% of Guadeloupe kid’s graduate from high school compared to 79% statewide. An investment in education made a lot of sense and Gonzalez new the help needed to be home-grown. -- knew.

Marina Gonzalez I felt like there were programs to help them but if you don't have the that relationship with people they will never go to them. The most important thing is having relationships with the people that you are going to work with or the people you want to help.

PKG: In Gonzalez’s mind where the kids learned was almost as important as what they learned. Guadalupe is a town of 5500 largely Native Americans and Hispanic residents. Almost 25% of the people live below the poverty line. But packed between the dusty streets of its one square mile as a fiercely loyal and proud population.

Marina Gonzalez We have such a beautiful community. We have beautiful culture. There is so much here in Guadalupe. I wouldn't change it for anything.

PKG: It is very family-oriented. The community offers a lot for the kids to do here

PKG: The kids hit the books and bust out the flashcards the three days a week the center is open. It is familiar territory.

Adelina Velenica: It is easier because people know the family. Everybody goes together. It is easier for the kids to communicate with each other.

PKG: And they do communicate.

PKG: What are you guys learning in class right now?

PKG: If you want help here, you have to give a little help.

Adelina Velenica: If we have second graders that know how to read and a kindergarten doesn't know how to read our second graders help them.

Marina Gonzalez They need help with homework the older kids help. We have teenagers that come and help them. We have parents that come in and help. I mean if you can sit and listen to somebody read, you are a tutor.

Harley Williams: I am happy with the kids here trying to teach them how to write.

PKG: 17-year-old Harley Williams found the learning lab at just the right time.

Harley Williams: I needed it because I was falling behind in school last year. I came here and they helped me get my grades up.

PKG: He gets help in math and reading and says no kidding it is a place where he can focus on homework and bigger goals.

Harley Williams: I want to become a rapper. But if that doesn't work out, I have a backup plan to make my own business. I will go to college and start off there. Work my way up and try to learn my bachelor’s degree.

PKG: He will get there with the help of volunteers like Rick Mason.

Rick Mason: There is one girl over there today and part of the reason she graduated from corona was because of me helping her.

PKG: His kids went to some of the same schools these kids did.

Rick Mason: Spanish?

PKG: Spanish is hard.

Rick Mason: But your mother speaks Spanish.

PKG: He understands his time has value and knowledge here.

Rick Mason: I want to see them get high school diploma

PKG: That is the short-term goal. Long term Gonzalez wants more.

Marina Gonzalez Those two are the basics for everything.

PKG: She wants these kids to keep their knowledge in Guadalupe and somewhere it.

Marina Gonzalez We don't want our kids to like leave and forget where they came from or lose what they have been -- to lose their culture and all of this. Not everybody has it.
Jose: The learning center has been open for six years and they’ve already had to move three times because they keep outgrowing their space. The center is open three days a week during the school year and offers summer programs.

Marina Gonzalez: Director, Guadalupe Learning Lab
Adelina Valencia: Kids attend Guadalupe Learning Lab
Rick Mason: Volunteer, Guadalupe Learning Lab

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