By Rene De La Cruz
After witnessing Zee Halls’ drive and tenacity in establishing the Family Resource Center and after school tutoring program at Granite Hills High School, Tammie Wallace is in awe of Halls’ accomplishments.
“She is a force to be reckoned with, and she loves these kids and will do anything to make sure they succeed in school and in life,” said Wallace, owner of One of Life’s Perks. “It’s about giving back to the community, that is why I’m helping with what ever Zee needs.”
Wallace was one of many sponsors at the school as Halls, a para-educator, unveiled the new center during a special gathering on Dec. 3.
“Not everyone is here today, but our sponsors are the ones who put this center together,” Halls said. “They donated time, food, school supplies and so much more. If it wasn’t for them, this center would not have happened, especially after all the school budget cuts.”
Mala Mehta, owner of Queen’s Pharmacy, was on hand as Zees showed off the center with its multiple computers, student artwork, furniture and abundant literature.
Mehta, a member of the Indian Association and Culture Society of the High Desert, donated $500 to the center on behalf of the society.
Besides school supplies, the U.S Navy and the youth group of Church of the Valley donated dress clothes for students going to college and job interviews.
“Some of our kids go to Granite, so as they went out and purchased items it became a very real and personal thing to them,” youth leader Dusty Ferguson, 25, said.
The center will also complement the English Language Development Program, which will help nearly 130 students with English communication skills needed to survive high school and the future.
After the tour, Halls escorted the group to the school library, where a large group of student-tutors helped their fellow classmates.
“I want to be a respiratory therapist, but my math skills aren’t so good,” Gabriel Mascorro, 16, said. “The one-on-one time with the student mentors and teachers have really helped me.”
Shabbir Khan, an exchange student from Bangladesh, said he really enjoys passing along his knowledge of chemistry and physics.
“It is exciting to be able to use what I know to help others,” said Khan, who will graduate in 2013.
A small group of students tutor approximately 40 students each day, along with a few Granite teachers who volunteer their time.
“Some students need that little extra help before it clicks,” said Granite Hills Alumnus and teacher Nick Gaspar, 25. “Once the light bulb comes on everything seems to fall into place.”
“This is the best run and most economical school program in the High Desert,” Principal Michael Kincaid said. “We’re working on a $300,000 a month school-wide grant that will also benefit this program.”
“Great things happen when students, parents, faculty, teachers and sponsors come together to create a wonderful atmosphere,” Halls said. “When our kids are successful, our community is successful.”
For more information, go to www.avusd.org, search for Granite Hills High School and click the Family Center link.