INDIAN RESERVATION Even though Ashleigh Skaggs has never been
in the same room with her math tutors, she says they helped boost
her grade from an F to a B last year.
Ashleigh and other students who live on
the reservation communicate with their tutors via microphones, computer
monitors and Web cameras. The tiny cameras are placed near each
The tutors, all students at the University
of California San Diego, are stationed at the school's outreach
communication center in La Jolla. A high-speed Internet system connects
the UCSD facility with a computer lab at the Pala Learning Center
on Pala Mission Road.
Ashleigh, 14, now a freshman at Fallbrook
High School, said working with the tutors helps her stay focused.
"They make me do my work," she said. "At first I
wouldn't want to do it."
The tutors are available for Pala students
of all ages. After school every weekday but Friday, buses drop off
students from Bonsall Elementary, Sullivan Middle School and Fallbrook
High at the learning center. Children also walk over from Vivian
Banks Charter School, an elementary campus near the learning center.
Tutors work with students from 2:30 p.m.
to 5 p.m. Most of them handle math and science questions, although
they can help in other subjects.
Besides Pala, UCSD has tutors helping
students at Gompers Secondary School in southeast San Diego. More
than 160 students have participated in the program since it began
a year ago, said Michael Dabney, a university spokesman. Eventually,
UCSD wants to make the program available to students on other reservations.
The 52 tutors earn $11.87 an hour. They
must keep a journal about their work and attend a weekly seminar
called the Tutor Preparation Institute.
Besides helping students improve their
grades, Hernandez said, the tutors are asked to promote higher education
by answering questions about college life, classes and financial
aid. "We have high expectations of them," said Rafael
Hernandez, director of UCSD's early academic outreach program.
Saving time and developing personal relationships
are among the advantages of tutoring via Web cams, UCSD officials
say. Tutors don't have to make the 45-mile commute to and from the
reservation. And the contact between tutors and students allows
the children to feel they are face-to-face with influential older
people, who not only encourage them to get better grades, but to
attend college as well.
"Our tutors are not only tutors,
they're mentors also," said Geneva Fitzsimmons, American Indian
coordinator for the university's early academic outreach program.
The learning center has four computers
with Web camera hookups. Students communicate with the tutors by
speaking into a headset with a microphone. The cameras allow students
to see their tutors on their computer monitor. The tutors see students
the same way.
Students choose which tutor they want
to work with by scanning a list of those participating, and using
the mouse to click on their selection.
The network is part of a project called
the Tribal Digital Village, which is funded by a $5 million grant
that the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association received
from Hewlett-Packard Co.
Tutor Sandra Banuelos, a junior at UCSD,
said she visits the learning center at least one day a week so the
students can work with her in person. "I love coming out here,"
said Banuelos, 20. "You get a reward by just helping them.
Darla Scott, 9, said the tutoring program
has helped her memorize multiplication tables. "I had trouble
with the nines," Darla said, adding that her math grade went
from a C to a B.