Andrew Campos, Jose Catalan, Kelly Morales, Ramiro Gonzalez work off-campus as tutors at the Sherman Heights Community Center through the UC San Diego Off-Campus Work-Study Reading & Math Tutor Program. 

What do you all do and what makes your jobs unique?

Andrew: We tutor elementary school children in a community center in Sherman Heights, which is an under privileged neighborhood in downtown San Diego. We give students the one-on-one attention they often lack in their oversized classrooms.

Jose: By working with the Sherman Heights community we help give students a better opportunity to prosper educationally. Many of the students are the first generation in their family to grow up in this country, therefore they cannot get as much assistance from their parents due to a language barrier. It’s great knowing that this job is making a difference in these kids’ lives and hopefully allows them to more easily pursue higher education in the future.

Kelly: I myself also come from a low-SES neighborhood so I see myself and the kids from my own neighborhood in the children we work with. Some students may already be doing well in school and it makes me happy to know that they’re on the right track! But, for students that may need extra help or a little push, it makes me even happier to know that I can help them with the extra resources they need to better themselves.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Andrew: Watching a child learn before my eyes.

Ramiro: I’m able to interact and really listen to every student I come into contact with. As the year progresses, I can see the growth in every individual student, which is my favorite part.

Kelly: Working with the children. It’s cliché to say, but knowing I can help students better their reading and math skills to become more confident in themselves is my favorite part.

Jose: The opportunity to work with these kids. They’re amazing kids who are very confident and positive. I can tell they enjoy having us there to teach them. Sometimes they will come to the center without having homework just to hang out, which makes me feel very welcome in the community.

Is this job in line with your long-term career goals?

Ramiro: This job is in line with my career goals. In the future, I would love to help students from underprivileged areas reach higher education.

Kelly: I want to go into the Social Work field to work with children! I was super excited to get this job because I knew that I needed experience working with children for future jobs and grad programs.

Andrew: I don’t know yet what I want to do long-term, but this job has shown me that I’d love nothing more than to help people.

Jose: I mainly took this job was because it reminded me of a tutoring program I attended as a child. I can relate to the students because I’m a first generation student who couldn’t get much assistance from my parents with homework because of a language barrier. I taught at a private school in Los Angeles this past summer and it was a great experience so I felt I could bring some of my experience from there to help students in this community.

How did you find out about the Off-Campus Work-Study Program or your job?

Andrew: I became fed up working at my other job and scrolled through Port Triton and saw a number of tutoring opportunities. I struck gold with this one.

Jose: Andrew referred me to the job. I liked the environment of the center because it reminded me of back home. In the past, I worked at private catholic school in Los Angeles and I also was a tutor in high school for a group called Educare.

Ramiro: I was able to find the job through Port Triton and prior work experience taught me how to work with large groups of people, which I believe helped me get my current job.

Kelly: I had actually applied through the Off-Campus Work-Study Program my freshman year, but my class schedule didn’t work well with the hours needed. I got into other small jobs, and it wasn’t until my senior year that I applied again because some of my friends got into the tutoring program. While I do have general work experience, I had never worked with children before this, other than my own nieces and nephews.

How has your job helped you?

Andrew: This job has helped me in a number of ways. I’ve learned patience, humility, how to deal with large groups, and how to get around downtown San Diego using public transportation.

Jose: I’ve learned to value fundamental aspects of education. Education for young children is so important because it builds a foundation in math and English which can really affect the way students from communities such as these prosper in the future. I see the same struggles and questions I had as a kid in these students and I know helping them understand can go a long way.

Ramiro: This job has taught me how to better communicate. Communication has allowed me to build a foundation of trust with parents which in turn allows me to better support each individual student. I have grown a better understanding of the struggles that every student I work with faces each and every day. I have been able to gain the student’s trust and create memories with them. One of my favorites was when the students felt so accomplished after receiving their first A’s.

Kelly: I have gained more patience! Double-digit multiplication is super easy now, but I have to remind myself how I felt when learning this at the student’s age. Tutoring has helped my creative problem solving skills as well because I often have to find better ways to help students learn how to understand and tackle problems. This is especially important with the new common core standards being taught in schools.

Have you ever had a difficult or discouraging experience related to also being a student worker in the past? How did you overcome this? 

Ramiro: I have, but it comes with the territory. Throughout life I have faced many hardships and adversity to get to where I am today. But I would not trade my struggles for anything in the world because it has shaped who I am as a person, and allowed me to become a resilient individual.

Jose: I’ve had to give up a really great second job because of school. The most difficult thing about being a student worker is constant scheduling. If you don’t balance your schedule correctly it’s going to affect more than just you.

Andrew: Coming from a similar background as the children we tutor, UCSD was a behemoth and the caliber of students that attend this school discouraged me greatly when I first came here. My first job here did nothing to quell those feelings of inferiority so it was hard to stay motivated. This job was a godsend because it made me feel like I had something valuable to offer and that I could make a difference.

What advice do you have for students?

Jose: Look for a job that understands you are a student first and allows you to make your education your first priority. If you’re interested in getting involved in helping students in communities like Sherman Heights, look on Port Triton. There’s quite a few community service jobs there.

Andrew: I’d advise students looking for jobs to never be discourage from applying based on a job’s distance from campus. For people who are interested in tutoring, especially young children, be ready to deal with childish behavior. As obvious as this sounds, it can’t be stressed enough. Tutors are there to guide students to help them grow and it’ll take time and work to develop a trusting relationship with them. Stick through the rough parts and the progress your students make will be the greatest reward.

Kelly: I would recommend everyone looking for a job to first look at the jobs offered through the university. Whatever major you are or field you are interested in, finding a job can help you begin making connections, either with professors or future colleagues. It’s also really useful to have a job through the university because they are generally closer to you and have flexible hours which can fit around a student schedule.

Ramiro: Stay positive and the right opportunity will present itself. In my opinion the ability to communicate is one of the most important skills to have in life. Being well spoken can show others you are unafraid of any challenges you may face.

Final Thoughts?

Ramiro: I could not be happier with where I’m working. My coworkers are my best friends and family.

Jose: Overall working in Sherman Heights has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in San Diego. The community center has opened up their doors to me and it has been great working with all my friends. Together we’ve helped this community and its students grow academically. We have fallen in love with the center and even go to their events when we aren’t working. This has allowed me to network and meet many activists both in the community and in politics. This experience is something I’m glad to have gotten involved with.

Andrew Campos is a Revelle fourth year and an Economics major. 

Jose Catalan is a Revelle fourth year and an Economics major. 

Kelly Morales is a Marshall fourth year and a Psychology major. 

Ramiro Gonzalez is a Revelle Fourth year and a Psychology major. 

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