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Making a difference in a young life

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Yelena Ovcharenko, Web Editor

Yelena Ovcharenko, Web Editor

I gaze up at the clock only to realize that a mere half-hour has passed. Forcing a smile through my agitated expression, I try to bring the discussion back to linear equations and solve the remaining problems.

But it seemed impossible to convince her that she has the ability to master algebra and, with some effort, pass math class.

Here I was at the first tutoring session with my mentoree, Danielle, in the library of Ramona Middle School.

I never thought that my service learning CORE 305 class would demand so much time and effort.

It was up to me to serve as a positive influence in her life and assist in improving her grades.

Danielle, originally a sweet girl with high moral values, turned bitter after a series of unfortunate events plagued her perfect life.

With divorced parents and sour friendships, Danielle tried to persist as an assertive and friendly 13-year-old girl that voiced her opinion on every subject.

Unfortunately, her grades and behavior at school did not take a similar route. She had transformed into the class menace and added to her teachers’ stress levels.

Her escalated apathy toward everything made me occasionally dread tutoring sessions. The fear of letting her fail and being unable to get her life back on track haunted me.

I dreaded the days when she met me with teary eyes or an angry face.

I was afraid that my investment would only amount to short-term positive outcomes.

At times it felt that I was taking two steps backward every time I attempted to step forward.

An article in a recent issue of TIME Magazine mentioned that teenage girls are becoming more aggressive and cynical toward each other. Cutting words and cold looks are becoming necessities in their lifestyles.

Movies such as “Kill Bill” and “Charlie’s Angels” applaud violence and associate aggressive behavior with success, while pushing aside the nice and sweet Cinderellas and Snow Whites of yesterday.

However, the article did point out that mentoring and support groups can serve as key solutions to this infamous trend of aggression.

As our tutoring and mentoring sessions continued, Danielle’s true character gradually became exposed. Her huge smile glistened through a layer of blond bangs as a loud and cheerful greeting followed.

Occasionally I even caught a glimpse of her graceful yet worried eyes with the thick strokes of eyeliner.

She was beginning to realize that she was a significant part of this world.

So far, this experience has been an opportunity for me to find the ideal method of reaching her inner soul and showing her that she could lead a successful and prosperous life.

Last Thursday, I entered the library exactly like I always do. Danielle was sitting with a large grin, ready to tackle algebra.

Her grades were slowly improving and her life seemed to have drawn a winning hand in the poker game of life.

Maybe mentoring will leave a long lasting positive impression in this girl’s life.

Yelena Ovcharenko, a junior journalism major, is Web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

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