Student News
Faculty / Staff News
Alumni News
Sports Shorts
Dateline Archives
Dateline Staff
CLASS “Gears Up” to Help Carson Middle Schools



Karen Lugo, assistant director, CSUDH Gear Up; photo by Joanie Harmon

CLASS “Gears Up” to Help Carson Middle Schools

Education is the answer. It’s the only hope that we have for our kids.
- Karen Lugo, assistant director, CSUDH Gear Up

Alumna Karen Lugo (Class of ’05, M.A., English/TESL) enjoyed her job as a tutor in the Center for Learning and Academic Support Services (CLASS).

“I really like working with students,” she says. “I’m a pretty good writer and I heard about the opportunities here. I knew it would look good on my resume and it would be great experience in terms of hands-on learning and how to actually get in the trenches and do the dirty work. You have to assess a student’s issues within seconds and be able to adjust whatever program you’re going to do with them within that half hour. I got regular students who came in twice a week. You really grew with them, I found it so rewarding.”

The former teacher’s enthusiasm so impressed CLASS director Caron Mellblom that she offered Lugo the position of assistant director for the Gear Up program on campus. Funded by a six-year $306,120 grant from U.S. Department of Education, the national program is a collaboration between school districts and local universities.

“She’s so energetic about the project,” states Mellblom. “Karen has worked for us as a tutor the last few semesters. In addition, she had been credentialed in elementary and secondary education, so she seemed like a natural choice.”

Gear Up sends students from CSUDH to Carson schools as tutors and mentor-models for 1,869 6th graders at Caroldale Avenue Elementary School; Glenn Hammond Curtiss Middle School; Andrew Carnegie Middle School; and Stephen M. White Middle School. The program will expand to include the 7th and 8th grades within the next two years. Lugo underscores the value of the program beyond academic assistance.

“We're hoping to help keep them in school and give them an example of students who have chosen to go on to college,” she says. “The goal is to capture those kids before we lose them and to provide them with somebody they can look at and say, ‘Maybe I can do that, too.’”

The tutors will be paid $9.66 an hour and will be expected to work 20 hours a week. Lugo is looking for students with an interest in education or working with kids. While a 3.0 GPA is preferred, she adds that requirement is flexible with the right student and emphasizes the benefits of the experience, particularly to students who aspire to teach.

“It’s huge,” she enthuses. “When you go into teaching the first year, there are so many things you learn that you didn’t hear in school. This is where we can bridge that gap for those students.

“They will have practical teaching experience with one-on-one and small group tutoring and work in a classroom with a master teacher. They’ll learn from the teacher, the tutoring experience, and get the bureaucratic maze that teachers have to deal with. The reality is going to be really good for them.”

Interviews are now in progress. Lugo states that concurrent enrollment in Teacher Education 490 is required “to not only help them with the nuts and bolts of what to do, but also give them a forum to discuss problems and concerns, what to do better, and interface with other tutors. The whole purpose is for us to monitor and make sure [tutors] know they’re being helped and not just out on a limb.”

For Lugo, the greatest rewards lie in the effort to diminish the high dropout rate of middle schoolers, particularly minority students.

“The kids don’t quite have their walls up yet, so they can still be touched somehow,” she hopes. “Many of our students also come from the surrounding areas, so they will have a lot of cultural similarities. So we’re going to have a lot of people just like them in the schools, providing them with mentor-models who can hopefully keep those kids in school who might otherwise get discouraged or disenchanted.

“If we can make it more accessible and interesting and possible for somebody, it will all be worth it. Education is the answer. It’s the only hope that we have for our kids.”

To apply for a Gear Up tutoring position, contact Karen Lugo at (310) 243-3256 or For more information on Gear Up, visit

-Joanie Harmon












Dateline Home Dateline Email To Top of Page
California State University, Dominguez Hills • 1000 E. Victoria Street • Carson, California 90747 • (310) 243-3696
If any of the material is in violation of a copyright, please contact
Last updated Monday, January 23, 11:45 a.m., by Joanie Harmon