Article Launched: 12/10/2007 08:26:55 PM PST
• Photo Gallery: Young helping the younger
Justin Burd is only 4 years old, but he enjoys attending Rowland High School. He thinks it's "fun."
His little buddy, 3-year-old Lucas Martinez, doesn't say much, but the big grin on his face mirrors his agreement.
While other students at the sprawling high school tower over the tiny tots, the little ones don't seem intimidated. If anything, the youngsters glow in the attention showered on them throughout the day by the teens.
Welcome to the Rowland Rainbow Preschool, the end of the rainbow, so to speak, for the cute little "munchkins" who are putting the teens on the yellow brick road to teaching.
Along the way, they're being helped by 130 "Dorothies," as well as a few other characters from the fictional land of Oz. These Dorothies are young women learning how to become preschool aides in a program sponsored by the La Puente Valley Regional Occupation.
While they don't wear bright blue checkered dresses like the original Dorothy, the teens do share the fresh-faced friendliness of the farm girl from Kansas.
And their sentiments are the same: making their dreams come true.
"I actually went to this preschool when I was little, and now I want to become a teacher," said 16-year-old Corina Rosales.
The fully functioning preschool helps the local teen advance toward her dream every day.
"I like working with the kids, it's widening my academic experience," added 17-year-old Jennie Montoya.
ROP instructor Pat Hakim said the teens learn as much as the youngsters in the preschool program.
"We teach them how to interact with the children and by the end of two years they will have earned their state certificate to become a preschool aide," Hakim said.
As one might expect, the youngsters are taught pre-math, pre-science and pre-reading skills in the pre-school.
But these activities are encouraged while the child is "playing." The preschool maintains that "a child's work is playing."
During a recent visit, some tykes were "working hard" as they ran and played. Others "worked" on bright blue paintings on easels set up on the sidewalk.
While the Lollipop Guild has been banned because the sugar gets the munchkins all wound up, the tots do get wholesome snacks to fuel their amazing energy.
"You have to have a lot of patience when you work with them," acknowledged 16-year-old Christina Quon.
But eventually even the kids tire out. So everyone belongs to the Lullaby League, with all the munchkins dutifully taking their naps every day.
Senior Steven Jimenez watched as two teens prepared one of the sleeping mats. The 17-year-old is in his second year at the preschool.
"It's been a great experience, I love working with the kids," said Jimenez, who wants to become a history teacher.
The preschool is supervised by two qualified preschool teachers. One is also a credentialed high school teacher.
The program enrolls children ages 3 to 5 and operates from 8:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on school days. Tuition is $235 a month.
Enrollment is limited to 18 youngsters, but there are only a dozen attending now.
"Unfortunately, enrollment has diminished so much that we may have to close the preschool entirely," warned Mary Ann King, school-to-career coordinator for ROP.
"That would be a shame because the class is such a great springboard into early childhood education," King said.
While a bucket of water won't make this problem melt away, there's still time for parents to enroll their kids to save the preschool. Interested families may call (626) 965-3448, Ext. 254.
Otherwise Justin and Lucas may have to drop out of high school. And another preschool may not be as much fun.
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801