Member Spotlight: Striving to Create Opportunities
We are excited to shine a spotlight on one of our newest members Aim High. Aim High has been helping children reach their goals for over thirty years in the Bay Area. Today, they are the largest summer academic program in the Bay Area, with 2019 enrollment exceeding 2,300 students. Their focus is on serving middle school students in high-need communities who have limited options, but unlimited potential.
During the school year in Oakland, Aim High works directly with Westlake Middle School, Urban Promise Academy, Frick United Academy of Language and Madison Park Academy, as well as a range of other district, charter and parochial schools.
We sat down with Benjie Achtenberg, East Bay Regional Program Manager to learn more about what makes Aim High a leader in after-school literacy interventions.
What makes Aim High stand out?
Aim High stands out for its commitment to the whole child. Our summer program combines morning academic classes with afternoon enrichment opportunities ranging from sports to arts to cooking, gardening, dancing, building and creating with all kinds of materials. Grounding every aspect of our program are our CORE values, which are community, opportunity, respect and high expectations. Building trusting and positive relationships is central to our program’s success and that in turn makes being at Aim High a joyful experience for both students and teachers. We are able to do this across all our sites throughout the Bay Area by maintaining a low teacher to student ratio of 1:10, which allows for real relationships to develop and for all students to be seen, heard, recognized and centered in everything we do.
What is your organization’s hidden talent?
At Aim High, we like to say we have something called the Aim High Magic. This is what makes Aim High so special. Though it may seem silly, the Magic is felt throughout the summer and especially at the end of the summer for teachers and students alike. The Magic is not something tangible per se, but is in the relationship building and authentic energy that everyone brings together each day. Creating a new type of learning space where middle schoolers are empowered to be themselves, to learn and grow together, is at the core of Aim High’s Magic.
How have you managed the pivot to distance learning?
The pivot to Distance Learning has been challenging, yet generally successful for Aim High. We were able to shift our full day in-person program to an online program pretty quickly, while maintaining many of the essential elements of the program i.e. advisory, community circles, academics focused on STEAM and literacy, as well as offering a myriad of enrichment opportunities, both synchronous and asynchronous. We are energized by the opportunity to continue to reflect on, refine and implement our distance learning program, (Aim High at Home) once again in 2021. We are planning for it to be another engaging, relevant, meaningful and substantive opportunity for teachers and students alike. Though we are providing a robust, teacher created, Project-Based Learning curriculum for all our teachers to implement, we always encourage our teachers to innovate and meet their students where they are. This summer will be no different. We want Aim High to be energizing for students as well as teachers.
Why does your organization support literacy in Oakland?
An essential programmatic element of Aim High has always been a focus on literacy. Even with our pivot to distance learning, literacy is still taking center stage with our Book Club, in which all students participate. We believe that literacy does not include just reading, but also includes writing, thinking and communicating, so to that end, we always strive to create opportunities for students to read, process, discuss and digest all kinds of texts with each other. This summer, Book Club will be no different, with a focus on YA fiction that is both relevant and which reflects who our students are, either through seeing themselves and or their experiences in the authors and/or in the main characters.
Why did you become an OLC Member?
We are excited to formally be a part of the OLC so that we can continue to collaborate with other like-minded orgs in doing the work to lift up Oakland’s youth by nurturing the power and potential of every student. We hope that by being part of this network we can learn from others’ effective practices, share our own and continue to build a seamless pipeline (Tk-12) of high quality opportunities for Oakland’s youth, especially those in middle school, whom we directly serve.
This blog is a feature highlighting our OLC Members in action. We know that building a future where every Oakland child learns and loves to read will take all of us. That’s why we’ve built a thriving network of organizations to learn, collaborate, and champion literacy. Learn More about our Membership by visiting our website. For questions about Membership, contact Jethro Rice at jethro@Oaklandliteracycoalition.org.