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Many ways to make a difference
GECAC drives home point in daily after school program
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Oscar Munguia, who oversees the Ripon Give Every Child A Chance after school program, shows his excitement about a new curriculum that will soon be introduced to students: “Every Monday Matters,” and its 52 ways to make a difference.

Making a difference in today’s world comes in even the smallest efforts – a philosophy that will soon be introduced to Ripon students participating in the Give Every Child A Chance after school program.

Oscar Munguia, 26, oversees the Ripon program sharing his excitement with Ripon site manager Melissa Bugarin at Park View Elementary School site serving some 135 students from throughout the district.

Using a hard bound textbook, “Every Monday Matters – 52 ways to make a difference,” children from the first through the sixth grade will be urged to go out of their way to save electricity by turning off the TV and room lights, give someone a hug, collect litter or write letters to soldiers serving overseas.

“I want the kids to feel they are really doing something,” he said.

Children are also being taught that they matter – what they do in life matters – the outcome matters.  Each student is being given a small black bracelet with the inscription, “You Matter!”

They are asked to wear the wrist band and take another one to a friend or a sibling, telling them why they matter to them.  

It may be someone like an older sister at home who watches out after them while their parents are away at work.  It is hoped in the program that the friend will pass another wrist band along to a friend “who matters” to them as well.

Munguia was a military policeman serving in Iraq with an Army unit out of San Jose – the 331st MP Company.  He had planned to take criminal justice college courses when he returned home.  Thanks to his wife Irene, he was introduced to the tutoring program and worked part-time at first, soon becoming a full-time member of the staff – now in his fifth year.

“I love it because I make a difference,” he said.  “When I was overseas I said when I got back home I was going to do something that made me happy.”  He added that he plans to reup in his reserve unit that requires one full weekend a month.

He vividly recalls growing up watching his dad come home every night after working at a horse ranch all day – tired and unhappy.  Oscar was not going to make that same mistake, he said.

In addition to the one After School Program at Parkview Elementary School, there are three tutoring sites that become operational for the 2009-2010 year this week.  They are located at Heartland Community Church, Ripona School and Colony Oak School.

Some 15 volunteers – retired teachers and business professionals – meet with students at each site with more being sought to expand the programs.  “The more volunteers we have, the more we can serve – always looking for more,” Munguia said.

He added that he is thrilled to see the kids coming to the after school and tutoring programs, especially when they don’t have anything else to do after school.  It’s fulfilling to see the boys and girls smiling – they need the high-5s, the attention – and hopefully the program fills that void.
The tutoring administrator gives a lot of credit to today’s teachers who help guide their students into their adulthood, and into their careers.
One high school teacher who he valued in his teen years taught him Spanish – how to speak and write it correctly – in contrast to what he had learned at home as a boy.  “She was good at her job and taught me how to speak it properly,” he added.

Michelle Badovnak was her name, and she taught at East Union High School in Manteca.

 Munguia got his calling to join the Army and to become an MP from that teacher’s talking about her father’s stories from the military as a policeman.

“Everyone, but Mrs. Badovnak told me how dumb I was to join the military,” he said.  “She was the only one to congratulate him on his choice.”
 He added that when he went to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training where he saw snow for the first time.  

“It was beautiful but then came the realization they would have to run and train in the snow.”

He said the military paid off for him in paying for all his schooling as well as the experience he received.

“When I started in this job we had 24 sites,” he remembered.”  Now there are nearly 40 including Manteca, Escalon, Lathrop and Banta serving children in six of the elementary grades.

As for his home life Oscar and his wife Irene have three dogs that make up their family.  He says he does some cooking – admittedly not the best but he loves it.  He plans to return to college full time while continuing to work full time.  His wife is also returning to school to get her teaching credential.

“This is going to be an interesting combination,” he chuckled.

As for Give Every Child A Chance in Ripon, Oscar is looking for professional who are willing to come and talk to his students about their vocations.  One recent presentation was made by a Karate teacher who wowed the students with his program.