Member Spotlight: Aim High


Member Spotlight: Aim High

The Oakland Literacy Coalition is excited to highlight Aim High as one of the members of our network! Aim High is a five-week summer enrichment program for rising 6th-9th grade students navigating system barriers in California. Offered at no cost to students and their families for up to four summers, Aim High helps middle schoolers build academic confidence, discover a love of learning, and develop the skills they need to thrive in school and in life. We had the chance to talk to Program Director Benjie Achtenberg about the organization’s mission, values, and providing consistent summer programming for students during some of their hardest years, when they face the most uncertainty.

Oakland Literacy Coalition (OLC): How does Aim High support literacy in Oakland?

Aim High: We support literacy in Oakland through all our academic classes but especially in our Humanities class where middle school students get to read grade level appropriate texts that are engaging and meaningful to students. We provide various ways for students to access the texts we use – physical books, audiobooks, teacher led read alouds, and partner reading. We also give students many opportunities to demonstrate their learning and ideas through presentations, debates and academic discussions, all of which contribute to their overall literacy. 

OLC: What sets Aim High apart from other organizations with similar missions?

Aim High: We are a free program for all middle school students. We are not a summer school, rather a summer program with and emphasis of academics and enrichment. We partner with a number of other community organizations to bring new opportunities to students every summer that they might normally have access to. 

OLC: What’s on the horizon? What community programming or events are coming up that your organization is most excited about and why?

Aim High: This summer we’ll be going on lots of field trips all over the Bay Area to college, universities, museums, amusement parks, local parks and forest and even to the beach! Though it signals the end of our program we are always excited for our end of summer celebrations where our students get to showcase all that they accomplished this summer and what they are most proud of. Those celebrations in July 13 and 14 are wonderfully fun and community centered where the kids get to shine bright.

OLC: What do you wish more people knew about the organization?

Aim High: Middle school years can be challenging for many young folks and are also some of the most critical years in human development. So much is happening in young people’s bodies and minds, and even though every adult was once there, many forget what that time was like. We provide a 4 summer continuum of summer programming for our students so that during a time of uncertainty (puberty and middle school) students can have something consistent.

What do you gain as a member of the Oakland Literacy Coalition?
Continued networking and collaboration with like minded orgs and individuals. We’d like to do more to bridge the school year out-of-school-time and our summer programming.

Could you share an anecdote/experience about working with a student, teacher, or parent that really stood out for you?
Mando is a student at one of our Aim High sites who started as a 6th grader in 2020 early in the pandemic when we were online for the summer. He struggled with English as his second language but had such a positive time building community online he came back for another summer as a 7th grader and 8th grader. His English continued to improve every year through his regular school year. He said to me the other day that the joy of being in a positive school space from summer to summer helped build his confidence as a scholar. This summer he is a rising 9th grader, is proud of who he has become is confident in his abilities both socially and academically in the classroom and out. It goes to show how powerful and formative joyful academic experiences can be especially when kids are seen and feel seen for who they are.

What does Literacy & Justice for All mean to you?
Students and parents/ guardians feeling empowered to ask for what they need in schools, especially when it comes to academic support AND getting it, unconditionally. Everyone deserves access to and support in reaching their full potential.


Learn more about Aim High and keep up with them on social media!


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