Using a $10,000 award he earned from a scholarship foundation, UCSB student Areo Saffarzadeh recently founded a music mentoring program that will employ Gauchos to teach tunes and serve as role models to local school children.

Saffarzadeh, a fifth-year biology and business economics double major, is set to launch his program “Making Melodies” at Isla Vista Elementary School this month using grant money he received from the Donald A. Strauss Scholarship Foundation. The program pairs grade school kids with musically inclined UCSB student volunteers, who will teach the children musical skills as they act as mentors to low-income students whose parents may work full-time.

Saffarzadeh said his program will benefit young students because the individual attention at weekly lessons will facilitate the children’s abilities to succeed in school.

“They [will] keep busy, productive habits, as opposed to sitting down and watching TV after school,” Saffarzadeh said.

Saffarzadeh, whose parents both worked full-time during his youth, said he hopes the style of individual interaction between the children and college students will benefit the pupils and tutors alike.

“Through this group, the older students will gain teaching experience and have a chance to get their feet wet by creating their own curriculum,” Saffarzadeh said.

Making Melodies is open to the 150 grade school students participating in the I.V. Elementary After-School Program. The school currently has a string instrument instruction class, but the lack of instructors and funds limit the number of participants and instruments. Saffarzadeh said that he hopes to alleviate the intensity of this problem by donating musical equipment to the school.

“The money for Making Melodies is going towards buying instruments,” Saffarzadeh said. “Including the piano, drums, oboe, trumpet, trombone, flute, violin, bass, guitar and possibly the santoor.”

The Strauss Scholarship Foundation, an organization that annually recognizes 14 college students who demonstrate a commitment to public service, selected Saffarzadeh after a lengthy application and recommendation process because he displayed an interest in continuing paying for the program through fundraising, after the grant money runs out, Saffarzadeh said.

“After I got the grant, I realized that anybody can do anything they want to do if they look hard enough and try hard enough,” Saffarzadeh said.

To complete the grant application, Saffarzadeh spent a week gathering letters of recommendation, organizing the details of the program, getting formal approval from I.V. Elementary School Principal Lisa Maglione and preparing a projected budget for the College of Letters and Science Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) office.

“The whole process was one of my most rewarding accomplishments,” Saffarzadeh said. “I get to do something fulfilling and act like a kid, too.”

Saffarzadeh now sends bimonthly reports to the Foundation and corresponds with the Board of Trustees.

An informational meeting about Making Melodies is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 20, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Lobero Room at the UCen.