PHS Launches New Tutoring Program


Photo courtesy of Ken Li

PCSC volunteers Julia Banuelos and Joseph Blumberg tutoring Bridges students

Reni Suhr, Staff Writer

Piedmont Community Service Crew (PCSC) recently launched a new tutoring program for elementary school students. The program, which was designed by co-presidents and seniors Julia Banuelos and Sofia Prieto-Black, will take place every Thursday at Bridges Academy at Melrose, an elementary school in East Oakland. 

PCSC is a youth-run leadership organization that allows teenagers to work actively in their community through service events, according to the PCSC website. 

On Jan. 26, five PCSC volunteers went to Bridges Academy at Melrose, where the majority of students speak Spanish as a first language. The volunteers who attended, including Banuelos, are proficient in Spanish and rotated through different groups of students (kindergarten through second grade) in 30 minute sections. 

“We help the students with their homework, tutor them, and be role models for them, as high school students,” Banuelos said.

Banuelos, Prieto-Black, and Ken Li, founder and advisor of PCSC, all hope for the tutoring program’s continued success following the first session. 

“The beginning of the program was difficult to acclimate to, but once it began the students and tutors had fun and enjoyed their time together,” Banuelos said. 

Li and the co-presidents are looking forward to the relationship PCSC will build with Bridges over time, and are hoping to gather a group of 15 tutors that will regularly attend the sessions.

“Sofia and I wanted to diversify our service efforts to involve the Hispanic community, which was our vision as co-presidents,” Banuelos said. 

Banuelos and Prieto-Black created the program to connect to their Hispanic heritage. The program allows them to entwine their own cultures and identities with their work in PCSC, while also immersing fellow members in a part of Oakland’s Hispanic population. Banuelos said there is a lot of value in the two communities coming together.

“One of the things I am excited about for this tutoring program is [that] it is serving a very different demographic,” Li said. 

Li said that this group includes a wider socioeconomic spectrum and recent immigrants.

The new tutoring program is modeled after a previous program PCSC participated in almost 11 years ago. The new program will eventually evolve into a program that is similar to the old one, but with more structure and organization, Li said. The program was very valuable and impacted participants, said Banuelos, who attended for two years. 

“For me it was very meaningful because these are the smartest little kids I’ve ever met, but they just don’t have the resources or support to learn in the best way they can,” Banuelos said.

PCSC members volunteered weekly at the previous program, which was led by a couple in Fruitvale, and visited the children on weekends to engage in social activities. PCSC hopes to carry parts of the social aspect of the old tutoring program into the recently implemented one, Li said.

“We’re trying to bring two communities together, whether that be socially or academically,” Banuelos said. “This program is more structured than the other one, and we want to work more directly with the students.”

The program gives crewmembers a chance to be involved in developing relationships, and working with the young students is PCSC’s newest way to achieve this goal. 

“PCSC is much more than just a way to get community service hours,” Li said. 

The crew promotes teamwork, youth ownership, creativity, and personal initiative, according to the PCSC website. If students have interest in participating in the tutoring program or PCSC’s various other service opportunities, contacting Li, Banuelos, or Prieto-Black is the best way to get involved.