Nonprofit support programs in local Jr high schools to address equity issues

Source: Youth Innovation Club

Youth Innovation Club, a 503 (c) non-profit organization based in Santa Barbara, recently launched several programs to support junior high school students in the Santa Barbara area – High Impact Tutoring Program, College Buddies Program and Science Project Advising Program. . Founded in 2019 by Vicki Ben-Yaacov, member of the board of directors of the Goleta Union school district, the mission of the Youth Innovation Club is to connect scientists, engineers, artists and innovators with educators to propose a practical program for elementary and high school students in the Santa Barbara neighborhood. In response to the widening academic achievement gap between middle-class and low-income students brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning, Youth Innovation Club collaborated with Goleta Valley Junior High School during the 2020 school year and contributed over 500 hours of online tutoring for students struggling with science and math.

From October 2021, Youth Innovation Club launched the High Impact In-Person Tutoring Program at Goleta Valley Junior High School, which targets students who are struggling in science or math and who may not have not the resources of the house to support them. Currently, the program has placed tutors in five different classes at GVJH. All tutors are volunteers with a solid scientific background and are passionate about helping the younger generation, and many are currently studying at UCSB. Each student participating in the GVJH receives weekly support from the same tutor, which allows them to forge links. Some tutors work one-on-one with students and some guide group discussions, depending on the support the students need. All activities are carried out under the supervision and direction of the classroom teachers.

“We customize the tutoring format according to the teachers’ requests. We place 3 to 6 tutors in different classes as needed, but they are all based on the same principles: engage, encourage and empower ”, explains Ben-Yaacov. “Working with teenage students can be difficult, especially those who don’t feel successful. Although our programs focus on academic growth, especially in math and science, we believe that the most important thing is to ensure that students can and are willing to engage with tutors. We work with teachers to design activities that help build the bonding experience, so that students can open up to tutors and receive help. It really is a mentoring program, because what we offer is not only homework help, we also want to help students develop the skills to defend themselves.

To date, feedback from students, teachers, and administrators has been universally positive. Clanci Chiu Merritt, Principal of Goleta Valley Junior High School, said: “Research supports small group tutoring as a high impact intervention for the current education situation where student needs are. more important than in previous years, both in academic and social / emotional fields. . The mentor / tutor support provided by the Youth Innovation Club to GV appears to address both of these areas. The cohesive 1 – 1 or small group connection with a UCSB student that started in early October has already shown to have a positive impact on some of our students with the highest needs.

When asked what they think of their tutoring experience, here are some of their comments:
“I felt like my tutor and I had a good connection and could trust him.”
“My tutor was cool and could help me with science, even my mom can’t do that!”
“I was able to achieve one of my goals with my tutor. “

Many volunteers are motivated by their own life experiences. “As a first generation student from disadvantaged backgrounds, I would first like to thank you for this wonderful program focused on high impact tutoring for disadvantaged children, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to Youth The efforts of the Innovation Club, ”said Sammy Umezawa, a volunteer tutor who is currently a third year student at UCSB.
The Youth Innovation Club is also currently piloting the College Buddies Program at Santa Barbara Junior High School. College Buddies is an intervention program that emphasizes both social skills and academic skills. This program is a collaboration with Professor Diana Arya of UCSB GGSE and SBJH Science Professor Marilyn Garza. As part of this program, a group of UCSB volunteers work alongside a group of grade 8 students during their science class. College buddies have many hats to wear – mentors, role models, coaches, and community builders.

“After a year of online schooling, some students need to relearn how to be students in the classroom,” Garza said. “We want College Buddies to show our students how to engage with the material presented, how to ask questions and how to help each other. Mentoring will focus not only on academic skills, but also on social skills. Through meaningful interactions with their college buddies, our students will practice their conversational skills, see education from a different perspective, and benefit from the encouragement and one-on-one help college buddies provide.

The third program that the Youth Innovation Club currently offers is the Science Projects Advisory Program. This program uses experts from different STEM fields to work with students participating in the Santa Barbara Science Fair. Students who choose to work on science fair projects at three local high schools, Goleta Valley, La Colina, and Santa Barbara Junior High, work under the guidance of scientists or engineers to brainstorm their science project ideas, receive feedback on their experiences and data. analysis, and practice their presentations and question-and-answer sessions before entering the Science Fair.

“I was once a science fair judge and found that most of the students who excel in these kinds of programs are self-motivated, but they also have plenty of resources to support them. They usually have someone in their life who can mentor them in their plans. It’s a question of fairness, ”said Ben-Yaacov. “We want to make sure that these resources are accessible to all students on campus, so that each student has the opportunity to work on a science project they are passionate about, under the guidance of an expert.”

Each Youth Innovation Club volunteer takes a Live Scan and TB test through Santa Barbara Partners in Education, a local non-profit organization administered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office, which selects and places volunteers on behalf of schools, as well as other programs and services. “We are very grateful for our partnership with Partners in Education,” said Ben-Yaacov, “Without their support this would not be possible”.
Asked what she envisions for the future direction of the nonprofit organization, Ben-Yaacov said: “We would like to step up our efforts so that we can help more students, which involves collaboration with the Santa Barbara Unified School District. As you can see, we don’t just bring a curriculum to schools, we work with every teacher we work with to bring the curriculum into their classrooms.


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