LOMPOC, Calif. - Gateway Educational Services will hold a grand opening Tuesday afternoon for a new tutoring and wellness center that is primarily focused on assisting young minority students in Lompoc.
Gateway Educational Services, a Santa Barbara-based non-profit learning center, said in a release the center will offer wrap-around services such as educational support, mental health, and nutrition, and will also connect clients with other support services.
"This is really thrilling that we can bring these same services to Lompoc and we've wanted to do that for a long time," said Connie Alexander, Gateway Educational Services Co- Founder and Co-Executive Director. "What we're bringing to Lompoc is a different model tutoring and wellness. We will be providing tutors here, and mental health services will also be here to be able to support the whole child and the whole child wellness, which is going to be different."
Gateway added the main focus will be to build reading literacy for Black/African American and Latinx students in grades kindergarten through 4th grade.
"We're going to see all demographics, but we're going to start with our African-American students because they are the ones in the most need," said Audrey Gamble, Gateway Educational Services Co- Founder and Co-Executive Director. "We'll start there and then we'll scale up and start including everybody. We're not used to turning anybody away. We're here to help everyone who needs help, and we'll find a way to do it."
Gateway pointed out that Lompoc Unified School District has the highest percentage of Black/African American students in Santa Barbara County.
"We see that a lot of African-Americans are getting left behind because of the class sizes and because there are a lot some of them are put in special education unnecessarily," said Gamble. "We find that all we need to really do is teach them how to read. And so that's how we're going to start with them."
The new center will operate in partnership with Dr. Cindy Blifeld, a Lompoc-based pediatrician who is affiliated with multiple area hospitals, including Lompoc Valley Medical Center and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
"This center is going to be basically a wellness center," said Blifeld. "We are going to try to provide a complement of services to help families in need. We're starting with the basics of providing tutoring services for the youngest kids that really lost out during the pandemic and just don't have services available to them. The vision is to eventually provide the same sort of services for older kids and mental health services."
A central component to the central will be its emphasis on addressing mental health issues children in the community may be experiencing.
"We have a therapist here and room for one more coming on board to provide mental health support," said Blifeld. "We are looking to have a speech therapist come in and an occupational therapist who specializes in the needs of kids with either sensory disorders or autism to help them. We also have a full kitchen, and we're hoping to have a nutritionist and a dietitian start working with families on healthier lifestyle habits for both eating and food preparation, maybe have a yoga teacher for kids come in to try to help family start practicing mindfulness much more regularly. That's our vision. It's really to provide a center that's not dedicated to helping people that are already sick, but to try to prevent sickness and to provide services that are just lacking in our community right now."
The Lompoc Gateway Educational Services center is now open each Tuesday and Friday. Appointments are necessary.
Gateway Educational Services also has a Santa Barbara tutoring center open Monday through Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information about Gateway Educational Services, click here.