Penni McConnell had the money. She had the classroom. And she had the students.
What she didn’t have was someone to teach them.
So it was that her church’s plan to help Stockton youth become more proficient at math this summer was in danger of not happening at all.
Then McConnell, an administrator at Victory in Praise Church on Harding Way in east Stockton, called Delta College.
"Just on the off chance," she said with a smile. "And you all responded."
At Delta’s MESA program, Cassandra Hernandez and Veronica Brown connected McConnell with Denisha Molson, a Delta graduate who is finshing her teaching credential at the University of the Pacific. Molson agreed to teach the month-long algebra institute at the church. Two Delta students, Charles Manning and Leopoldo Arellano, were also hired as tutors.
One month later, as a result of this partnership, 18 Stockton youth are better prepared for their future.
"It has been an amazing experience," McConnell said.
This all started after Victory in Praise was awarded a grant by CSU Bakersfield to help improve math skills for African American and Hispanic youth in seventh, eighth or ninth grade.
The grant was awarded in April, leaving little time to take care of the details. After struggling to find a math teacher, McConnell said she was almost ready to pull the plug on the whole program.
That call to Delta changed everything. MESA, after all, was in a unique position to help. The goal of the program is to introduce first-generation college students to careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The teacher and tutors selected for this summer's program all came from MESA. And the youth they taught may very well end up being the next generation of MESA students.
"Having role models that are from our communities is important," Hernandez said. "The tutors share life experiences with the young ones (they've walked the same path) and are now living proof that dreams come true."
The algebra institute ended up going far beyond basic math. One day last week, Delta Professor Mary Jo Zimmerman visited the youth to talk about being an electrician, a job field where there is significant future demand and solid pay.
Students were shown how to wire up a switch so that a lightbulb came on. Later, Zimmerman told the youth how one former student returned to her recently and described how becoming an electrician had taken that student out of poverty.
“It’s definitely a career you should all think about,” McConnell added. “These are the kind of careers you can find at Delta College that you may not even realize existed.”
Delta Professor Mary Jo Zimmerman talks about a career in electrical work.
Juliana Leal, 13, is interested in becoming a lawyer because she likes to debate. So she was excited to hear about Delta’s Pathway to Law program.
“When we first got here they were telling us about the college and I had so many questions,” she said. “Now I have a much better view.”
The church’s work with Delta is the kind of partnership that McConnell hopes will continue into the future. “We were elated to be able to do this,” she said.
A panel of Delta College students shares insight about what it's like to go to college.