Tara Giles provides a push for education

BY ERIKK O. ALDRIDGE

Tara Giles knows a lot about challenges and hard work.

Growing up in San Pedro, she says she often felt that teachers did not help her fully realize her potential in school.

She did not receive a definitive academic push from her teachers, Giles says, and she ended up at El Camino Community College instead of a four-year university.

While completing studies at El Camino and preparing to apply for a four-year university, she initially saw working at the local Boys & Girls Club as a way to enhance her college application.

Giles applied to be a volunteer tutor at her local club in San Pedro.

What started as a volunteer opportunity quickly turned into a paying job and a passion.

The commitment also helped her gain admission to UCLA, but the hours forced her to leave the club to concentrate on her studies.

“I wanted to stay in San Pedro,” Giles says. “The kids and the relationship with the kids is the best. It is really a Positive Place for Kids.”

Nearing graduation from UCLA, she says she found herself evaluating various job opportunities.

After mulling over another “boring desk job,” she turned to a familiar source of personal and professional satisfaction — the Boys & Girls Club.

The club in Venice had an opening for an education director posted on its Web site and Giles knew that this was the right job for her.

Since coming to Venice in the winter of 2006, the UCLA graduate has helped establish more individualized educational training for the children at the club.

This summer, she has worked with some of the club children to help them catch up on their studies before the 2006-2007 school year starts.

Other club children take advantage of the educational program to keep their skills sharp.

“This upcoming school year, I want to establish more contact with local teachers,” Giles says. “Then we can make sure we are helping the schools educate the children.”

Whether it is recognizing the needs of a child who might have a learning disability or giving an extra push to a student in academic need, Giles is very committed to making a difference through education.

“Working at the club is not for lazy people,” Giles says. “Once we get more tutors and volunteers, then our impact will really take off.”

As with her own personal educational track, Giles feels that sometimes what kids need most is a path and a push.

[This is the second in a series of articles from the Boys & Girls Club of Venice about its staff and programs, written by club executive director Erikk O. Aldridge.]

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