ASST. NEWS EDITOR
The Fifth Dimension is an after school computer-based program in Whittier that employs students from the College to elevate the children’s learning outside of normal school hours. The program was originally brought to campus by former Professor of Child Development Don Bremme in 1993 when an increase of parents were joining the workforce. As a result, many of these parents turned to after school programs to watch their children until they got off work.
It wasn’t long before the quality of these after school programs began to be questioned by parents who wondered what their children were doing and what the educational quality of their programs were. The college students from the education and child development department that were interested in the program were sent to the The Boys and Girls Club during after school hours to help children develop critical thinking, social, and developmental skills.
Currently, the program uses computer games as a technique to further the development of children. Children are more responsive to things they enjoy. This makes using computers key, not only to piquing a child’s interests, but also to making the learning enjoyable. The most important role in this play comes from the college student, who takes the situation from a child playing on a computer to cultivating a learning environment. Director Katherine Lazo says the role of the college student is to encourage the child to think critically about what they are doing and to provide assistance if the child needs support along the way. “It’s allowing the kids to have the opportunity to do those things, and they’re doing it through play, so it’s not something boring,” Lazo said. “It’s just happening in real life and in the moment.”
College students working for the Fifth Dimension enjoy many different aspects of the program. As a general consensus, the students enjoy working with the children and building relationships with these children. Lazo’s favorite part of Fifth Dimension is seeing the progress she makes with the children. “It’s one of the coolest things to interact with them and see them grow — and their accomplishments and joy and the light turn on when they understand a concept,” said Lazo.
However, each employee’s favorite part of the program is different. “My favorite part about working at the Fifth Dimension is seeing our citizens use our program as a platform to voice their opinions, thoughts, and suggestions about topics they are passionate about,” said fourth-year Isabel Cuen.
One of Fifth Dimensions biggest projects is Day On Campus (DOC) in which children are brought onto the Whittier College campus during each semester for a tour. They get to sit in on a class and do an activity with a professor, visit the residence halls and see the library, and speak to student athletes. Because the campus is less lively during JanTerm, DOC runs a little differently. Two college students take charge of the planning instead of the director and reach out to professors ahead of time. Due to the children only being available to be brought onto campus outside of their regular school hours, it is more difficult to find classes willing to work around the hours of the children. Nonetheless, they still visit the campus and are shown the different areas and what a day in the life of a college student would typically look like.
The goal of DOC is to show children that college is an obtainable goal that they should all strive for. “For so many, it’s not that they don’t want to go, but they don’t think they can,” said Lazo. “It’s so far away financially, or [from] what they think they are capable of, so the idea is showing them the people they hang out with every day are college students, and they can do it.”
Lazo encourages all students to think about joining the Fifth Dimension program because there are many benefits for both the children and college students. “Bring in what you are good at and what your passion is, and give it to the community as a gift.” Students can get more information on the Fifth Dimension program by visiting their website, https://www.whittier5thdimension.org/.