"The purpose of the Learning Center is to provide the children of our community a safe and nurturing Christian environment for them to complete homework assignments. Through this Learning Center, children will be able to complete schoolwork, enrich their studies with resources, and enhance English skills. It is the goal that each child will become a better and more productive citizen." -- OLC mission statement.
Why was OLC needed? Orangethorpe Learning Center opened its doors on February 14, 1995, as a ministry of Orangethorpe Christian Church, and Orangethorpe and Cornerstone United Methodist Churches, in service to the families of the Southwest Fullerton area. Its opening was the result of more than a year of research and one-to-one conversations between members of our Churches and parents, children, teachers, principals and local police and government officials. This research disclosed:
With all these factors (which still exist) in mind, we could see that many of the children who lived around our Churches could be having trouble keeping up with the lessons assigned to them by their teachers. They could also lack some of the basic skills needed to do well in school. The parents to whom we spoke all cared deeply about their children's education, but some were unable to provide them the help they needed to achieve at grade level. Some of these parents and children were already well known to us through our contacts with them at Hot Meal Ministry at Orangethorpe Christian Church.
What could we do? We investigated possible ways to help these children through contacts with the Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO) and with other churches within our denominations. The solution at which we arrived was a homework center, where children in Grades K through 6 could receive help after school, not only with their assigned homework, but also in such broad areas of education as English language proficiency, math skills, use of reference books and computer literacy.
The center would be staffed by volunteers from local churches or other service organizations, as well as by students' parents who might have time to come in with their children. It would not be a "day care" or "recreation" program, but would emphasize the academic progress of its attendees.
So that's how our Orangethorpe Learning Center came about.
What has happened in the community since then? Once we started up OLC and the news spread that we were there, the number of students in attendance increased from two on opening day to around thirty per day by the end of the school year in June 1995.
Attendance growth occurred when teachers at nearby Orangethorpe School heard about our ministry and started recommending OLC to children who needed a little extra help with their lessons. Attendance has fluctuated over the years but usually averages more than 30 students per day during most of the school year.
When we opened OLC, we did so on faith that our material needs and expenses would be provided for. We only had a few hundred dollars and a lot of donated school supplies on hand. We have since received generous donations from Church members and grants from Hunt-Wesson Foods, St. Jude Medical Center, Griswold Industries, and from a variety of other sources, including the United Methodist, Christian (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian and Catholic churches. This financial support makes it possible for us to hire several part-time tutors to oversee OLC's daily operation. The need for paid personnel to insure consistency and continuity in our day-to-day operations became apparent very early in OLC's development.
As important as this financial support might be, OLC wouldn't be possible without the enthusiastic participation of volunteers of all ages. These volunteers have included members of our churches, the children's parents and family members, and students from nearby high schools and Fullerton College. We welcome young people who are considering becoming teachers and wish to gain practical experience in a friendly environment. We'll be glad to sign your community service or work experience forms.
With the help of our many friends, we've seen students take more interest in their schoolwork, improve their English, get better grades, and even make the Honor Rolls at their schools. Parents who send their children to us have given us very positive feedback. Our admission policy is summed up by Jesus' command to let the children come to me, and do not hinder them. No child who is willing to study and learn is ever turned away by Orangethorpe Learning Center. We help all children who come to us, regardless of their families' race, religion, cultural background or financial situation. Our services are always completely free.
What's happening now? After OLC had been in existence for six years, the value of helping children with their homework after school was finally recognized by the federal government, which granted funds to the Fullerton school district to start its own homework centers at several elementary schools. During the 2001-2002 school year, programs began in parks next door to Orangethorpe and Valencia Park schools which served about 100 children daily. Some of these students formerly attended Orangethorpe Learning Center. Nevertheless, many parents still prefer to send their children to OLC for a variety of reasons.
In June 2003, Cornerstone United Methodist Church took leave of us to move to Placentia. We thank Cornerstone for all the support it gave us during our first eight years.
In 2006, we incorporated Orangethorpe Learning Center as a "California non-profit public benefit corporation". It is easier for OLC to obtain grants and donations than it was while we were a ministry of a church. We have federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, in case you're wondering whether you may deduct your donation on your income tax return. But nothing has changed in our mission or in the service we provide to the families of our neighborhood.
Also in 2006, we were pleased to be able to hire two of our former students as OLC tutors. A decade earlier, Kristina Iancului and Gabriela Villa had come to us as students looking for homework help. Now they were both students at California State University Fullerton. They knew the needs of our neighborhood and served its kids with a special kind of love that came from their own experiences. Later on, Kristina and Gabriela both became members of our Board of Directors, giving us the benefit of their long experience as students, volunteers and paid tutors, while Gabriela's younger brother Ángel Villa, who attends Cal Poly Pomona, became our Director, managing the daily operations of the homework center.
Orangethorpe Learning Center celebrated its 18th anniversary in February 2013. Throughout our existence, we've been a catalyst for change in our corner of Fullerton, where our presence has helped bring about a St. Jude community health center in Richman Park, regular summer programs in Gilbert Park, the Disney GOALS program in Richman Park and the playground around the corner in Olive Park.
When it came time to reopen for the 2013-2014 school year, Ángel found it impossible to continue as director due to his class schedule at Cal Poly. When she learned of this situation, Kristina, who is now married and known as Kristina Frias, was able to step in on short notice to serve as our interim Director. Due to changes in the Fullerton school district's calendar, we opened our doors on the earliest date in our history, August 26th. Although only nine students were present on opening day, we had thirty children enrolled by our sixth week.
The needs in our community are as great as ever. OLC will continue serving our families as long as we are needed. Please visit our web site at olckids.92833.org for news of more developments!
Where is OLC? Orangethorpe Learning Center is located on the campus of Orangethorpe United Methodist Church at 2351 W. Orangethorpe Avenue. It is open Mondays through Thursdays from 2:45 to 5:00 pm throughout the school year, except on days when Fullerton city schools are closed.
How can you help OLC? We welcome the involvement of individuals, businesses or civic organizations in any of the following ways:
You can make a very big difference in children's lives. For more information, please contact:
This page was last updated August 25, 2016.