A centering influence

Thursday, December 18, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:32 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008


Once the bell rings on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at Blue Ridge Elementary School, the Ocampo brothers race outside and climb into a gray 15-passenger van.

The brothers, 10-year-old Freddy, 9-year-old Cristian and 5-year-old Ivan, are among 40 Latino children who participate in the after-school program at Centro Latino. The resource center has served the Columbia Latino community for three years. Children are picked up from school and receive help on homework from bilingual volunteers.

In addition to its educational component, the organization also provides health and cultural resources.

The Ocampo boys, along with 11-year-old brother Jovani who is too old for the after-school program, participate in Fun Days, a monthly event that allows the children to spend the afternoon making crafts and taking field trips to places such as the Columbia Public Library, the Activities and Recreation Center and area parks.

The Ocampos’ mother is learning English at Douglass High School and is grateful for the children’s program.

“First, most importantly, they help them with their homework,” said the boy’s mother, speaking through a translator. “Before, the children would always have questions and I could not help them because the directions were in English. Second, I have noticed improvement in my children’s reading skills, their homework performance and their behavior at school.”

Linda Manning, a volunteer at the center, attests to the family’s closeness. “Their mom is very vigilant,” said Manning. “It’s obvious that the boys are very loved and well-cared for.”

Wish Box

GROUP: Centro Latino

SUMMARY: Centro Latino provides resources guidance in navigating the health, education and cultural resources of mid-Missouri. Since its inception in the spring of 2000, the nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization has helped hundreds of Latino families and individuals. Centro Latino assists Latino families, regardless of national origin, immigration status or religion.

CONTACT: Centro Latino de Salud, Education y Cultura, Parkade Center, 601 Business Loop 70 W., Suite 208, Columbia, 65203 or call 449-9442.

WISH: Jovani Ocampo would like to have video games for his Game Cube. Freddy Ocampo would like to have a stereo with a CD player. Cristian Ocampo would like to have a new house. There are seven people living in a complex with two bedrooms and one bath. He says it gets pretty crowded. He also would like a television. Ivan Ocampo would like to have games for his Gameboy.

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