Saddleback student lends support to local elementary school

Brooke Howell, 19, psychology working with 5th grade students at Kinoshita Elementary School (By Alyssa Hunter/Lariat)

Cassie Rossel

Several Saddleback students have decided to step up and become a helping hand to the children and staff of a local school.

Kinoshita Elementary School is a low-income institution located in San Juan Capistrano. Due to the school’s low test scores, it does not receive as much state funding as it needs, and therefore is in need of volunteers.

Brooke Howell, 19, psychology, first started volunteering at Kinoshita in the beginning of October as an assignment for her psychology class, but now that she has finished her required hours she has decided to stay and continue to assist the school in any way possible.

Over the first three weeks she spent volunteering, Howell grew close to the kids at the school.

“I just grew so attached to the kids here, and I wouldn’t be able to leave them,” Howell said.

She decided to stay and continue volunteering even after the required hours were finished because of her love for the children and the school.

Howell has been working alongside Scott Boelman, a fifth grade teacher at Kinoshita, during her time at the school.

Because of the lack of resources at the school, the ratio of 26 children to one teacher is not an uncommon scene. Boelman is just one teacher who has become accustomed to these ratios, and he acknowledged that having a volunteer in the classroom greatly relieves some of the pressures.

“If a student needs a little extra help, she [Brooke] steps right in,” Boelman said.

The volunteer program at Kinoshita began four years ago to help kids stay out of gangs and to motivate them into pursuing college. There is also a lack of parent volunteers at the school because many parents either hold multiple jobs or are unable to speak English.

Gila Jones, the current volunteer coordinator at Kinoshita, has been involved in the program since the very beginning. She took on the role of coordinator last year and has already doubled the amount of volunteers at the school, from 40 to 80.

Peggy Baerst, the principal of Kinoshita, voiced her gratitude towards Howell and other Saddleback students who volunteer at the school.

“We’re really interested in working with Saddleback College students, in particular, because [they’re] perfect models for where we want our kids to go,” Baerst said.

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