Fresno BEST Program Helps Students do Their Best

Fresno, CA Talking to people has always come easy for 14-year old Clarissa Tello, a freshman at Fresno High School. But when her mother died of breast cancer 3 years ago, she began feeling empty and little lost. "I wasn't in the right spot at the moment. Like I was just sad and upset about the fact that my mom passed away. I just needed support and just to be more myself and not someone else that I am not," said Tello.

That when she decided to join "BEST," an after school program run by the City of Fresno's Parks, Recreation, After School and Community Services.

"We're targeting the student that is kind of in the middle, not necessarily the student playing in the football team or involved in drama, but the student who is looking for a group to be able to belong to that is interested in their future," said Shaun Schaefer with Fresno P.A.R.C.S.

The program helps students with their academics, prepares them for college or professional vocation, and helps build their confidence and leadership skills.

Program instructor Christy Donison said many of the students start off a little shy and introverted. "But now, they're like 'When are we going on our next field trip?' or 'I want to help with a resume or when we do the mock interviews, can I do such and such?' It's like they are venturing out and they are meeting new people."

Sunnyside high School Senior Jessie Gumanab said the program has given him a huge sense of belonging. His grades have improved from B's and C's to A's and he has plans to become a cardiac surgeon. "It puts my mind in that place where it's constantly working, but at the same time having fun with my friends here."

The program tracks their progress, but the students also keep personal portfolio's with report cards, pictures, awards, and lists of accomplishments. It's a memory book of sorts that reminds them how far they've come and where they're going.

"It's a really good program, helps you build resumes, it gets you involved; it takes you to colleges, it leads you down that right path to whatever you want to do in life," said Donison.

The "BEST" after school program is at every Fresno Unified high school and middle school and the West Fresno School District. They soon hope to expand the program to Central Unified.

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