When UCLA student Ming Ma emigrated from China at age 10, she not only had to learn a new language, she also had to adjust to a new culture and new friends.
"I never had any assistance in terms of assimilating and learning English," says Ma, a junior majoring in biology. "I'm an only child, and my parents were working seven days a week, so I felt very alienated."
Today, as a director for Project WILD (Working with Immigrant Literacy Development), Ma spends Saturday mornings helping recent immigrant children become proficient in English. The student-run mentoring program works with middle school English as a Second Language students in the Garvey School District in the San Gabriel Valley, which serves a predominantly Asian and Latino population.
In addition to English tutoring, UCLA student mentors serve as role models for achievement and confidants whom the students could talk to about their experiences adjusting to life in a new country.
"I wanted to help children who were experiencing the same difficulties and frustrations I did as a child," says Ma. "I see the trust they have in me, and it's so fulfilling to know that I'm making life easier for them."
Said Loretta Gonzales, president of the Garvey School District Board: "I'm amazed at the level at which these college students are mentoring our students. They've established genuine and lasting relationships. I would assume that UCLA would do outreach to their immediate community, but I'm extremely grateful for their willingness to extend beyond their boundaries to tend to the needs of all communities in Los Angeles."