CSD Gives Back

By on Aug 2, 2017 in Giving, People

What do you remember most about your summers as a child? Many of us enjoyed camps and retreats during our breaks fromUW2 (2) school. For others, those activities were not an option. United Way Santa Barbara (UWSB) is working to level the playing field for a new generation of local students by providing summer enrichment for ask-risk youth.

Members of the local Yardi Voyager Client Success Residential SB 2 Team recently volunteered at the UWSB Fun in the Sun (FITS) Lunch Bunch event. Volunteers included Evan Hamilton, Brandon Paul, Luke Smith, Sonia Acuna, Ryan Daley, Baron Wei, Richard Ngoy, Dan Maliniak and Jomel Esleta, Team Leader, CSD.

FITS is a six-week learning program geared towards children who are academically and financially at-risk.

Esleta explains, “FITS is an important program for the community because these students’ parents spend much of their time working. The children are often unsupervised during the summer and are exposed to behavioral risks. FITS provides students and their families with unique and engaging experiences to reduce and reverse ‘summer learning loss’ and narrow the achievement gap between lower-income students and their middle or upper class peers.”

Summer learning loss is a condition examined and analyzed through a 20-year study at Johns Hopkins University. When students lack access to enrichment activities over the summer, they lose academic skills gained during the previous year. They are also less prepared for the upcoming school year.

The affects of summer learning loss accumulate year after year, pushing the students farther behind their peers who are able to continue learning during the summer. “By ninth grade, summer learning loss can be blamed for roughly two-thirds of the achievement gap separating income groups,” says TIME Magazine.

To prevent summer learning loss, volunteers help students with hands-on assignments, arts and crafts, and discussion groups.  Through these projects, students can continuing learning through the summer.

FITS has achieved great success. In 2016, 98 percent of participants maintained or displayed gains in their literacy skills.

UW3Of course, summer is also a time for fun. The Yardi volunteers attended a FITS Lunch Bunch, an opportunity for students to have lunch with professional adults that is followed up with playtime.

During Lunch Bunch, the Yardi team expected timid introductions. With the variety of ages and personalities types, they figured a few awkward exchanges would be inevitable, too. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Paul recalls his experience with one student he met during lunch. The student was friendly, personable, and completely at ease with his adult mentors. “That’s a testament to the success of the program as a whole. He was already at a young age learning to communicate with courteousness and intrigue to adults of all ages.”

After lunch, the team split off into groups on the playground. While some participants engaged in basketball, kickball, dominoes, or chalk drawing, a small group opted for UNO. Humor abounded among spirited disputes, enticing newcomers to the table and expanding the fun.

The games ended in a draw. The kids solidly held their own against the adults.

“I was impressed with the ability of the students to interact respectfully with each other even though there were clearly some very different personalities and energy levels within the group,” says Paul. “Our entire team had a great time volunteering and highly recommend anyone gives it a shot if interested!”

Lunch Bunch also provides a casual setting in which volunteers can impart wisdom into students’ lives.

“One piece of advice we offered our mentees is to believe in themselves first before others will believe in them. Believing in themselves exhibits confidence and being confident will lead them to their success in the future,” Esleta says.

Kids are not the only ones to enjoy the interaction. Hamilton says, “FITS is a gratifying and mutually beneficial experience. It allowed me to let go of any stress and tap in to my inner ‘kid’ and play games. It feels good to know that we are donating time for the growth and development of our next generation, while also having a great time!”

In 2012, FITS received the National Excellence in Summer Learning Award by the National Summer Learning Association.

To show your support for this award-winning program, volunteer or make a donation.