CCS serves high school-aged students who have demonstrated the need for a small, highly supportive, and closely supervised educational environment. For the past two years, Dominican tutors and mentors have provided academic assistance for these younger students, helping to increase self-esteem and build confidence among this marginalized population of teens. In addition to one-on-one tutoring, Dominican students have created opportunities to visit the Dominican campus and helped CCS students explore post-high school options. The benefits for the participating Dominican students include broadening their view of the world, breaking down stereotypes, and developing a deeper understanding of complex social issues. 40 Dominican students participated in the program this year.
Over the past year, with the support of grant funds from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, the Dominican Service Learning Program has been able to expand its program at CCS and undertake an oral history project in which Dominican students work with CCS students to interview and make videos of community members who have experienced human rights struggles and who have lessons to share concerning the imperative of protecting rights. Through this process, students learn about the importance of resiliency and how others work to overcome struggles and become engaged community members.
After learning oral history skills and completing their interviews, the students decided to work together to produce a project that addresses issues some community issues identified through the oral histories in the form of a broad exploration of community perceptions of CCS and its students. In collaboration with Youth In Focus, an Oakland-based group that trains young people in youth-led participatory research, students interviewed people within the school community (students, staff and teachers) and the local community about their perceptions and knowledge of the school. Using material gathered from these interviews, students developed a film about CCS, the services it provides, and the students it serves. The goal is to create a dialogue about the gap between community perceptions and the reality of CCS. There will be an open showing of the movie at the end of the semester at CCS and in Fall 2009 at Dominican. Plans are being developed to show the film to other community organizations in the near future.
One Dominican student in the Service Learning Program had this to say about tutoring at CCS: “At County Community, I was able to be an escape for students. I provided them with the academic help they needed as well as a listening ear; I was able to build trust with, and encourage them to dream about their future and make plans. In return, they opened my eyes to deeper problems in the community, and encouraged me to strive for dreams to help the community once I graduate from college. I am aiming to be a lawyer once I finish school, and the social issues that County Community deals with are the types of issues I want to reform and fix. County Community helped me find my calling in my area of studies.”