10th Anniversary Edition
Orangethorpe Learning Center
In the early 1990s, the people who made up Orangethorpe United Methodist Church's Local Organizing Committee were very concerned about a number of problems in our neighborhood, such as:
Several of us started attending meetings of the Orange County Congregation Community Organization, learning about community outreach. We heard about projects which other churches had carried out in their own neighborhoods. We walked our neighborhood knocking on each door, asking people what they felt was a need. We invited neighbors to OUMC to continue this dialogue about needs and problems in more depth and to explore possible solutions.
Among the many needs which our neighbors expressed to us, they said their children needed help with homework. Many of the parents in our neighborhood didn't speak enough English to help their children, or worked long hours and couldn't spend enough time at home with them. We decided this was an issue we could do something about immediately, and that an after-school homework center would address the problem. We undertook even more research, visiting similar programs in Costa Mesa and La Habra and meeting with representatives of the city and the school district to hear their assessment of the situation. Concerned members of Orangethorpe Christian Church and Cornerstone United Methodist Church also became involved in the planning.
February 14, 1995, was opening day. We decorated the Patio Lounge with balloons and streamers and bought some punch and cookies. Nine of us volunteer tutors were ready for the many students who needed our help. But only two children came. We weren't discouraged though. The next day seven kids showed up and, within two weeks, an average of 25 students were coming in each day.
When we opened Orangethorpe Learning Center, we did it on faith that we would be able to meet the needs of the families of our neighborhood. We didn't have a penny for supplies and no personnel except volunteers. We didn't even have a name for it until a few days before it opened. We raised some money by grants and donations from neighborhood businesses to buy supplies and were able to hire one of OLC's founders, Norm Todd, as director. We developed contacts at local high schools and colleges to obtain student volunteers.
As time went by, we strove to involve our students' parents more in the management of OLC and in our fund raising. One of the parents who brought her child the week we opened, Margareta Iancului, is still active as a board member. She and other OLC moms work hard in the kitchen each Christmas season to make tamales to sell to our congregations. Her daughter, Kristina, is an honor student at Fullerton High and is also a volunteer. Another of our "first moms", Bertilia Solares, was an active leader until moving out of the area a year ago. Her sons, Willie and Jesse, are achieving 3.5 GPAs at Rialto High School.
We have learned as we went along. It hasn't been perfect and we are still learning, but we have been very proud of our students' progress in academic improvement and proud of our parents that have stepped up to volunteer daily and to raise funds for our center. We're very proud of our students' progress and of the family members and church members who have put in many hours of volunteer efforts.
To all those that participate in our Escuelita:
My affectionate greetings and best wishes for this new year which is just beginning.
On this occasion my message is directed with deep respect and sincere appreciation to all those people who 10 years ago opened their minds and their hearts to start Orangethorpe Learning Center, a place for all the little ones who needed help with their school work.
Through all those years many children have come through our doors who now are in high schools, colleges and universities.
I just want to say "thank you":
Our K/1 tutor, Patricia Liu, asked her students why they like to come to Orangethorpe Learning Center. Here are some of their answers...
Some readers may ask, "What's this about playing? Don't these children come here to do homework?" We answer that, to a 5-year-old, there's no distinction between playing, working and learning. Patricia chooses activities which stimulate the minds and hands of her little ones and which prepare them for future tasks.
We're very grateful to the following generous friends who have recently donated funds, supplies or computer equipment to OLC:
To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Orangethorpe Learning Center will have a party Thursday, February 17, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. We hope that many of our former students, volunteers and employees will attend, as well as family members and other people who have supported OLC over the years.
If you plan to attend, or if you'd like to help us to make this happy event a big success, please contact:
We welcome two new volunteers who joined us this month: