Jim Shelton: Excellence in our Bay Area schools

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Jim Shelton started his work at CZI by visiting teachers, students, and parents in the Bay Area.

Jim Shelton:  While there is a lot of important work being done across the country and around the world, I am especially excited to learn about the work we have committed to doing to support children and families in our local Bay Area community.

For example, well before I joined the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we were engaged in a number of programs providing high-quality summer learning for underserved students in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, Redwood City and San Francisco. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a few of these programs in Redwood City and East Palo Alto and hear firsthand from students and teachers about their experiences and their sense of the value of these programs.

I witnessed excited and engaged students learning about science, the meaning of values and how they are applied through the “innovator’s mindset,” and more—all while having what seemed like a ton of fun. Many students shared that, for them, these programs were the alternative to a summer of television, video games and boredom.

My first stop was at Aim High, a program that has been operating in the Bay Area for 30 years. This summer they will serve nearly 1,500 students in the Peninsula and San Francisco. We saw Aim High in action at Roosevelt Elementary School in Redwood City. Aim High’s primary mission is closing the opportunity and summer learning gap for middle school students. While they have a strong track record of halting “summer slide” for their students, I was also intrigued by their approach to creating a diverse teacher pipeline for the communities in which they work. Forty percent of their teaching assistants, “Youth Educators,” are Aim High graduates, and 83 percent are youth of color.

I also visited a partnership between the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, local school districts and Galileo Camps. Through their collective efforts, 1,200 1st-5th grade students in East Palo Alto and Redwood City are receiving academic support in the morning and are engaged in the highly regarded Galileo Learning experience during the afternoon. Consistent with this summer’s theme—the Summer Olympics—students are crafting victory medals, building “judo robots,” crafting their own bows for archery, working and playing in teams, and learning the science and history behind each sport and its athletes and equipment. Among other great things, this partnership is an example of how collaboration can dramatically increase the inclusiveness of previously exclusive opportunities.

People often think impact comes from big and complex things. Watching these children, their teachers and the volunteers who worked with them reminded me that simple moments of caring and wonder can yield immeasurable impacts on individuals and send ripples through the world. I look forward to continuing to partner with these organizations and others in the Bay Area to support the students in our local community.