Through a mixture of teaching, mentorship, and brotherhood, elementary students from Castro's Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and the Urban Ed Academy — UEA — from Bayview Hunters Point bridged a territorial and educational divide through a new summer program, Leaning into Literacy.
This new summer program brings boys in grades 3–6 together from different parts of San Francisco. It is hosted by Harvey Milk in partnership with UEA and targets underserved students of color according to Ron Machado, Principal at Harvey Milk. The summer program began June 6 and ended June 30.
Machado said that UEA fits the profile necessary to make Leaning into Literacy a success. Academic Coaches from UEA bring in important components to the program, including a STEM curriculum —Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — something Machado said few other organizations provide for this age group.
“UEA is unique in its scope and capacities,” Machado said. “I was looking around for a partner last year, and no other organization fit quite like UEA. We are starting small this year, but the hope is that in future years we can expand and serve more students.”
Since 2010, UEA — an independent educational nonprofit — has been striving to increase academic performance, increase school attendance, and decrease disciplinary actions in this age group. These goals line up with SFUSD’s strategic plan in closing the achievement gap for boys of color, according to UEA Executive Director Randy Seriguchi, Jr.
Seriguchi said that 40 participants — 20 from Harvey Milk and 20 from UEA — sharpened their skills in six key academic and social components in a structured environment during the program. These components included math, financial literacy, coding, reading, urban electronics, and health and recreation. The UEA curriculum also incorporates character development, cultural awareness, and community service.
For UEA, this partnership broadened their scope, introducing reading/English language arts and financial literacy as curricular components.
According to Seriguchi, those UEA serves face larger achievement and opportunity gaps than nearly every other peer group. UEA is one of the few groups that focus solely on elementary-age boys of color.
According to Seriguchi, UEA brought in students from 13 elementary schools, which provided the opportunity for boys from different parts of the city to come together.
“We liked the idea of getting our core group of boys out of the Bayview for the summer program to expose them to more parts of the city,” Seriguchi said. “This is the first year we’ve partnered with Harvey Milk, and we look to partner with Harvey Milk next year.”
Along with academics, Machado said that the social and emotional skills of the participants were challenged and expanded upon. He said that it may be difficult for children from different neighborhoods to get along with each other in the beginning. This was the case when students from UEA first came to Harvey Milk.
Early into the second week of the summer program, Breayana Jackson, academic coach for UEA, said that the students’ natural inclination to be territorial began to chip away, ceding to diplomacy and cooperation.
“The UEA students are getting more comfortable in being in a different environment,” B. Jackson said. “There was a little bit of unease in the beginning from the students of Harvey Milk and UEA since they are from different parts of town. In this second week things have tightened up.”
Jackie Jackson, parent of program participant Jamir, echoed this sentiment. Jamir attends Harvey Milk. “At first it was tough,” J. Jackson said. “Kids from other schools were coming into Harvey Milk and there were territorial issues. By the third and fourth day, the kids were more open to sharing.”
“A lot of these kids grow up without a father, and are without that role model like my son,” Jackson said. “It is great that my son has some positive male role models here. I just hope these kids can grow up and come together as friends instead of enemies.”
According to Machado, with the partnership of UEA there is one dedicated adult available to assist for every ten students.
“Our theory is that boys need to listen to their adult leaders, and we believe it’s easier for them to listen to those adults when they can immediately relate to them,” Seriguchi said.
Woven into the summer program are weekly field trips designed to further expose participants to other parts of the city — in which they may otherwise have not been afforded the opportunity.
In the first week, students, staff, volunteers, and parents visited the California Academy of Sciences. Seriguchi said the underpinning learning objective focused on STEM. In the second week the group went to Delores Park to focus on character development.
“During the field trip(s) the kids were really engaged and interested,” said the academic coach Jackson. “The boys asked many questions.”
This enthusiasm spilled over to parents, such as Jamir’s mother, who accompanied her son to the California Academy of Sciences. She said that she didn’t know about UEA before, but would like to enroll Jamir in the UEA Saturday school — the SMART Saturday Academy — beginning this fall.
“The boys take away a lot each day from this program, and it doesn’t stop after they leave,” said Jackson, the academic coach. “A lot of the kids bring home questions. This gets the parents involved.”
Jamir’s mother said that she has noticed that her son’s interest in learning has grown. She said that he has ADHD, and learning to build practical things such as electric scooters has triggered this interest.
“We (UEA) will always have a chance to change the life trajectory of these boys at this young of an age,” Seriguchi said.
According to Seriguchi, this isn’t the first summer program that UEA has been involved with, though its main focus is SMART during the academic year. SMART is a program that serves more than 300 boys in Saturday enrichment courses for six hours.
SMART is designed to fill the educational gap, by supplementing educational hours that may have been lost during the school week through absenteeism and disciplinary action.
“By expanding academic activity to Saturday, increasing the literal number of classroom hours experienced by each boy, and decreasing the number of hours these boys spend at home or in the principal’s office while their peers continue to learn, we hope to hit our goals solidly,” Seriguchi said.“If we can do our job right, we should alleviate the load that other organizations have to bear later down the line,” he added.
Learning into Literacy is funded by a $30,000 SFUSD Impact Grant made possible through the Quality Teacher and Education Act of 2008 — QTEA — according to Machado. These SFUSD grants are designed aid in recognition of promising growth.
Leaning into Literacy is further supported by My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper, California Boys and Men of Color, and the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and their Families.
Landon Dickey, SFUSD Special Assistant for African American Achievement and Leadership, serves as a nominal partner in this initiative.
Visit the UEA website at www.urbanedacademy.org
for further information on these initiatives and programs. Harvey Milk is one of eight schools to receive an Impact Grant this school year. You may also consult SFUSD's QTEA section at their website to view other grantees and their programs at http://www.sfusd.edu/en/about-sfusd/voter-initiatives/voter-initiatives.html