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Adventures ahead: a Good Neighbors project

Adventures Ahead: A Good Neighbors Project
Nancy Robles says she wants to be a dentist when she grows up.

Seven-year-old Nancy Robles isn’t yet sure what a tutor is, but she knows she has a reading buddy.

“My reading buddy is Florence. Florence is from USC and he’s nice,” said Nancy, who attends 32nd Street/USC Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School. “He writes on the books and then he erases it and then it looks like he didn’t do it. He helps me.”

Nancy is one of 40 University Park children who get extra help for school through Adventures Ahead, supported through a $14,000 grant from USC Neighborhood Outreach, which is funded by the Good Neighbors Campaign. This month marks the 16th year of the Good Neighbors Campaign making a difference in the lives of the families around the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.

Over that time, USC staff, faculty, students and friends have donated $10 million for 411 programs. All of those donations go directly to these community partnerships as the university itself pays for the administrative costs of the Good Neighbors Campaign. This year the goal is to raise $1.3 million.

Nancy also has set her sights high. She even knows why she wants to be a dentist when she grows up.

“Because you get to give kids something like a prize,” Nancy said. “I’m going to check if kids have cavities, and I’m going to clean their teeth and put in crowns and then I’m going to get them something out of the treasure box because when I was little, I got a present. I’m going to learn to be a dentist at USC.”

Amparo Santiago, Nancy’s mother, attributes much of her daughter’s success to Adventures Ahead, which calls on USC students to tutor children, emphasizing reading, science and math.

“I think this program will help Nancy obtain a career in the future,” Santiago said. “My hope is that she achieves her goal and not becomes like a lot of kids who do not have an education and do not attend universities. This program brings [motivated] students to be with the student. I feel happy because my daughter is not dedicating her time to watching TV.”

Every summer for nearly a decade, Adventures Ahead has provided a classroom environment from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., five days a week. The subsidized cost to a parent is $25.

Adventures Ahead was created by Richard Parks, executive director for Redeemer Community Partnership, an outreach program that touches 300 children a year through tutoring, performing arts and creative writing.

“We are closing the achievement gap,” said Parks, who is director of special projects for the USC School of Planning, Policy, and Development. “Here are 40 kids who otherwise would be out on the streets. Instead, their academic horizons are being challenged and stretched. They are learning and growing intellectually. There are 40 kids who are in this loving and nurturing environment that is really redefining what their future possibilities are.”

Local business owners Rose and Tom Roark were so impressed with Parks and his youth outreach that for the past 18 years, they have donated space to help with his efforts to educate children.

“What we would love to do is be able to reach every single child in this neighborhood on every single block,” Parks said. “How do we help them catch up a whole grade level, catch up two grade levels? That’s the kind of transformation we are working for.”

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