Story and photos by Joseph Herrera/Staff writer/@josephherrera91

Long Beach Blast, a program that reaches college students to establish connections with youth of Long Beach can create an opportunity for a brighter future of academics.

LBCC students relieve academic stress and construct a positive outreach for inner-city youth. Lifelong interpersonal skills are put to application to experience a sense of purpose in a mentor-to-mentee program.

A mission statement proposing “to improve success for at-risk students through collaboration and innovative approaches” is the driving principle that has indicated the success of the program. A majority of the students who volunteer with the program are offered several courses at LBCC. Political Science professor Paul Savoie offers the chance to volunteer for 20 hours in community outreach program such as BLAST or write a 10-page essay. Charles Hancock, 24, a political science major, said, “There is so much of a rewarding feeling, you get to learn about the community and get to know so much about yourself.”

Sociology and humanities courses taught by professors Carlos Ramos, Sheila Daniels and Ny Chhuon offer the BLAST program as an assignment. The City partners with the program, expanding its influence to other clubs such as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach. Lincoln Elementary, Hamilton Middle school, Beach High School offer site and services for mentors.
About five mentors from LBCC, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Dominguez Hills offer their time to tutor and entertain the mentees.

Brenna Perez, 21, a human services major, spends her time at Lincoln elementary assisting with one-on-one tutoring. She said, “It’s awesome when a student is struggling and then I’m there to help understand the subject. When I come to volunteer there excited to see me. I want to get into counseling so this has taught me to become more patient and helpful.”

Volunteer program coordinator and LBCC alumna Lucero Chairez started with blast in 2011.  After two consecutive semesters being a 1-1 tutor, Chairez was offered an internship. When talking about her greatest accomplishment, Chairez said, “Personally, my biggest accomplishment has been building a lasting friendship with my high school mentee. She was 17 when I first started working with her. She’s now 21 and we are still mentor-mentee.”

“She’s like a little sister to me and I’m overjoyed with how much she’s impacted my life and vice versa. I knew that I had the potential to be a positive role model for her, but I had no idea how much I could learn from her as well.”

More information on Long Beach Blast, may be found by visiting lbblast.org. Students interested in volunteering can email lucero@lbblast.org.