NCREL: North Central Regional Education Laboratory
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Snapshot | Behind the Scenes | A Day in the Life


Interview | Timeline | Program Staff

Gabriela Sanchez is a teaching assistant and the site coordinator for LA's BEST at Esperanza Elementary School. We asked her what it's like to run an after-school program in an inner city, why it's necessary, and what motivates her and the LA's BEST staff.

When LA's BEST started at Esperanza, we weren't trying to improve attendance or get students more excited about school. They like to be here. But we are in the middle of an inner city. There is no grass. Most of our students live in small, crowded apartments with two or three other families who don't speak English yet. They don't even have room to do their homework, and they don't have the homework help they need.

Our students need a place to play and do homework. Many of them are in limited-English classes and need help with literacy. These are huge needs, and it's hard work, but we offer a lot in response: organized sports like soccer and football, field trips to explore museums, see a play, or watch a game; guests who come to Esperanza and teach us something new. Every day, we devote time to homework.

Enrichment activities and learning games help develop literacy skills. Students listen to stories and learn about people like Ruby Bridges. In just that one exercise, they're getting attention and being read to. They're also hearing and discussing the history of the civil rights movement. And in all their activities, students are acquiring and remembering the language skills they need to succeed in school.

Personally, it's very rewarding to watch students working together to find an answer and to see their eyes light up. Parents and classroom teachers notice the results, and their feedback really helps. We know that this program is making a tremendous difference in students' lives.