CII partners with UCLA to create PowerUp's first College & Career Day

October 15, 2018
Soleil Delgadillo

On Saturday, September 29, we partnered with the UCLA Volunteer Center & UCLA Latino Alumni Association (ULAA) to create PowerUp’s first College & Career Day to benefit over thirty children at our Otis Booth campus. 

PowerUp is an after-school program designed to support children living in areas of elevated family and community violence and exposure to traumatic events. Youth, ages 7 to 10 at program intake, received a trauma-informed, fully integrated array of youth development, family support, and behavioral health services. Through twice-weekly after-school programs, monthly special events, and an annual summer camp, PowerUp helps youth develop effective communication and coping skills, reduce risky behaviors, and lower symptoms of traumatic stress. Additionally, caregivers may attend workshops and family events.

With PowerUp’s program focus in mind (especially around youth development), UCLA Volunteer Center’s 10th Anniversary and Hispanic Heritage Month coinciding together, the UCLA Latino Alumni Association was excited to support our nonprofit that serves 77% Latino children and families once more. With conversations and planning starting at the beginning of June the day was full of excitement with plenty of activities to keep our students engaged.

The day started with a warm volunteer orientation filled with donuts and coffee to get our sixteen UCLA Volunteers (undergraduates and alumni) prepped and ready for a fast-paced, high energy day with our PowerUp students. When volunteer groups visit us for one-day events our Volunteer & Engagement Team give an overview of our services, ways to stay engaged, how to work with youth and most importantly, how to have fun together. After a short orientation and instructions on the two roles they would play (speaker and one-on-one mentor), volunteers were brought into our “Big Room” to join over thirty-five PowerUp students for our opening introductions.

For our opening introduction, Stephanie Argueta, our PowerUp Program Supervisor, welcomed a full classroom of youth to their first College & Career Day. After a quick overview of the day and introductions, students were taught UCLA’s famous cheer, The 8-Clap.

Then students broke into rotations to hear how current UCLA undergraduates and Alumni made their way to college and found their career paths. Students asked great questions that included what problems students and alumni were currently or had already solved in their personal and professional journeys.

Two rotations of listening to undergraduate and alumni stories later, our PowerUp children, alumni and students joined back again in The Big Room for a game of College Bingo, “I’m Going to College” photos and UCLA hand removable tattoos. Students and volunteers utilized this opportunity to fuel their brains with hearty snacks, but also to create rapport with one another. A UCLA Alumni Volunteer said, “There is a lot of disconnect from High School to College. Students need positive role models to talk to them about how to go to college and what skills they need for certain careers. There are several things that go on behind the scenes that are important for them to know.  It’s never too early to learn about the college process, especially to receive positive reinforcement along the way.”

After their break, PowerUp youth and volunteers entered their last rotation of the day, which included writing and editing their elementary-friendly resumes. PowerUp youth prior to this event have been preparing their own resumes, conceptualizing what their first job will be and the skills they will need to succeed. PowerUp youth and volunteers worked together to perfect their resumes and jump start their goals and aspirations.

The last activity of the day brought everyone back into the Big Room to do a raffle. Lucky PowerUp youth who won received UCLA Latino Alumni Association cinch bags that said, “OrgullOSO de ser Bruin” translating to Proud to be a Bruin, with several other UCLA goodies such as stickers, pens and a water bottle. After our raffle, students and alumni said thank you and goodbye to each other after a final collective 8-Clap.

When asked to share their thoughts about their experiences, one PowerUp student said, “I learned that you need to work hard to go to college” and that “computer scientists have a cool job.” Another equally enthusiastic student said that he learned “that there are many opportunities in college and that you can’t give up.” After the day, students were asked to reflect on their strengths and name a few things that they like about themselves. One student said that she likes that she is “smart, kind, beautiful and passionate.” A father from Project Father said “my daughter’s education is very important for me, which is the reason that I came to this event today. She wants to be a teacher and loves school. I hope she achieves her dreams.” His daughter has been in PowerUp for two years.

The day served over 35 PowerUp Youth, with 16 UCLA Alumni volunteering from various networks, including the UCLA Latino Alumni Association, current undergraduate students and special UCLA Alumni guest, Congressman Jimmy Gomez, ’96. Overall, the UCLA Volunteer Center reported an estimated 18,767 hours contributed this year at a rough value of $463,000 to the communities at over 70 sites around the world. This year’s projects took place at schools and homeless shelters, veteran sites and food banks, with estimates of 2,681 total volunteers among the 52 projects in Los Angeles County and the 18 additional locations from San Diego to Washington D.C., Namibia to Taiwan and of course, at CII’s Otis Booth Campus in Echo Park.