LOS ANGELES — A bright pink and purple romance novel just made 7th grader Genesis Sanchez’s day. She loves to read, especially about love.

“I hope it happens to me in high school,” Genesis said.

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The book was recommended to her by one of her mentors in the Los Angeles Team Mentoring program at Johnnie L. Cochran Middle School, a program at 12 schools in underprivileged areas around Los Angeles. The program demonstrates a new approach to social and emotional learning.

“Without them, I would be lost. I wouldn’t know what to do,” said Sanchez.

Genesis joined last year and said the after-school meetings helped her gain confidence, find friends, and gave her something to do. She decided to join again on her own terms, but teachers can also recommend students.

“It made me come out of my shell, because before all of this, I was very shy. I was in my shell and teamwork gave me a voice to speak,” said Genesis.

She has grown close to her mentors, adult community members who volunteer their time to lead activities giving students a safe space to talk about whatever is on their mind. For example, this week the topic was relationships.

Genesis says she comes from a single-parent home in a rough neighborhood, so having other adult figures in her life made her feel special and gave her structure.

“If I didn’t have this program, I would be one of those kids on the street with no one caring about them,” said Genesis.

This is the main reason that LATM was formed, back in 1992 after the LA Riots, the original founders realized they needed a way to help the children of Los Angeles succeed and have positive influences in their lives.

Executive Director Maria Melton says even though students aren’t concentrating on school work, LATM students graduate at a 22 percent higher rate than their peers.

“The program really works. We bring information to young people that don’t have the opportunity to get in their current environment. They’re not surrounded by a network of caring adults that can teach them these things, so that’s what we do,” said Melton.

And Genesis was able to find that here. She hopes 7th grade brings even more confidence than 6th.

“This year will be happy. This year will be the year,” said Genesis.

The year Genesis will grow even more surrounded by her mentors and friends.

If you would like to apply to be a volunteer for LATM, click here.