Nevada Union club uses peer support to improve academics
June 14, 2013
Though being a student requires a balancing act of many workloads from school to social life and sometimes a job, students can still make time to positively impact others.
Ben Beltran, who will be a junior at Nevada Union next year, started the Influential Mentors Producing Academic Change for Tomorrow club a year ago to help students in need of tutoring.
"We tutor anything in any subject and anything the kids need help in," Beltran said.
He originally went to Scotten Elementary to tutor and mentor a struggling student, which evolved into a group of 12 that visit and tutor at different schools, which have so far included Seven Hills Intermediate, Grass Valley Charter, Bell Hill Academy and Union Hill.
“That was the beginning of my mission and incentive — to change kids and be a role model for them.”
— Ben Beltran,
The ability to see the growth and development of students has been a rewarding experience, Beltran said, citing in particular one disruptive student who became better-behaved after he was tutored.
"The office started saying how he was acting better, and I took him to one of my volleyball games, and he said he wanted to grow up to be like me," Beltran said. "That was the beginning of my mission and incentive — to change kids and be a role model for them."
The club can help develop Spanish-speaking skills, which was club member Sean Anderson's initial interest.
"I joined the club so I could work on my Spanish speaking with native speakers, and I thought this was a great way to work on the fundamentals and speaking it in the real world," Anderson said. "But then it's become something more special, where you're really interacting with these kids and building a relationship."
In addition to IMPACT club, Beltran also pioneered a summer program at Madelyn Helling library titled "Bilingual Story Time" to help students learn Spanish through childhood stories.
The idea would be that Beltran would read a story in English while a partner reads the same book in Spanish to teach children different Spanish words.
"I think it's good that we keep cultural awareness, and learning a language is almost like learning a new way of life," Beltran said. "It's great to give kids, when they're young especially, some instruction so they might have it in case they need it later on."
Not only does understanding a new language bring cultural exposure, it also makes for a more competitive job applicant, Beltran said.
"The job market becomes so much more open when you're bilingual," Beltran said. "It opens so many more opportunities, so I think it's opening doors. As you grow older, it's harder to be more receptive to languages."
Beltran also became involved in efforts by the Palestine-Israel Working Group to support the Maia Project after Wendy Hartley, a family friend and one of the organization's members, brought up the idea.
The project was to raise funds to install a water purification and desalination system at Nuseirat Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip, something Beltran said helps support the goal of IMPACT Club.
"We recently had a yard sale, and I brought some of my members from my club and Spanish Club as well," Beltran said. "I think it's good that we keep our eyes open and know that we're here to support education around the world, not just locally, and providing water might be opening more opportunities for people around the world."
Hartley said between donations and purchases, the yard sale garnered $700.
She said Beltran's willingness to help with the Maia Project is part of his overall nature.
"I needed some yard work to be done, and he helped me," Hartley said. "He was surprised when I wanted to pay him. My idea from the get-go was that I would pay him for the work, his idea was that he was helping me, so it never even occurred to him that this was a paid job. I thought that was an interesting aspect of him."
IMPACT Club will provide books and learning materials to students with a $500 grant the club received from the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation, which provides grants for programs that help support literacy and was formed by the owners and founder of Swift Communications, which owns and operates The Union and http://theunion.com.
"I thought that was quite amazing that a high school sophomore got a foundation grant," Hartley said. "I can't wait to see him take off as a grown-up."
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.