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Three kings party is set

Kicks off ASPIRA effort in community

January 03, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Those that aspire to do things in the community usually need money, and ASPIRA is no exception.

The new organization, which morphed out of Citizens for Latino Educational Excellence a few months ago, has some far-reaching objectives it hopes to implement to perk up local student achievement. To start them rolling, it's hosting a fundraising "Fiesta de Reyes" party Jan. 9.

"If you look at the MCAS scores, there's always a gap — 20 to 30 points — between the white kids and the Latino kids. We're trying to narrow that gap and boost achievement for all students," said Fran Fajana, an ASPIRA board member and lawyer at the Mass. Law Reform Institute in Boston. " We've sort of decided we need to do three or four things."

The group's "really labor intensive" core project "is something we're calling a Saturday Academy," she said. That will provide MCAS, SAT and other tutoring, financial aid, CLEP exams, a six-to-eight-week summer program, job exposure and various other things (some of them fun), but the group is still deciding which grade it should target. Ideally, it'll match a volunteer with no more than four or five students to act as a mentor and tutor.

"If we had one volunteer and 20 kids, we're just replicating what's happening in the schools, and that's not optimal to me," Fajana said. " It's hard to take 20 kids and really give each one meaningful attention, especially in a 45-50 minute class period."

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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