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Grant To Help Latino Aides Become Teachers

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The Ford Foundation has provided the University of Southern California with the first installment of a three year, $1.2-million grant for a project that will help Latino paraprofessionals in Los Angeles-area schools become teachers.

The project's leaders hope to be training 500 paraprofessionals by 1994, and as a result, substantially alleviate a shortage of 2,500 bilingual-education teachers in the district.

Their ultimate objective is "to increase the number of Latinos in the teaching profession by creating a career-ladder track for practicing Latino paraprofessionals," said Michael Genzuk, the project's director.

More than 500 paraprofessionals have already applied to participate in the program, according to Mr. Genzuk, although there is only space for 50 to 100 in the first year.

"I suppose it's a good problem to have," he said. "It also illustrates that [the paraprofessionals are] a resource that's untapped that we have to tap into."

The project will be overseen by a consortium including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles teachers' union, the Los Angeles County office of education, California State University-Los Angeles, California State University Domingues Hills, and the Tomas Rivera Center, a policy-studies institute based in Claremont.

Mr. Genzuk said that California State-Northridge and the University of California at Los Angeles have also expressed interest in participating in the project in the future.

"Our overriding goal is to be able to have a framework that can be lifted and placed anywhere in the county where people need Latino teachers," Mr. Genzuk said.

The Ford grant will enable the U.S.C. program to provide academic, financial, and social support to the paraprofessionals.

In particular, the program will enlist the support of the paraprofessionals' families. A primary obstacle preventing female Latino paraprofessionals from becoming teachers, Mr. Genzuk said, is "an attitude in the Latino community ... where the woman's role is to be in the home to take care of the children."

The program will also include a mentoring component and preparation classes for the California credentialing exam.--M.S.

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