Kimberly Garcia is volunteering at the 31st annual migrant summer school in Merced, and she says it’s not your typical program.
Garcia is one of seven volunteers with the Central Valley Opportunity Center’s Community Corps who have been helping behind the scenes to make the program enjoyable.
“You wouldn’t expect it to be this much fun,” Garcia said. “We help set up activities and do posters. There is also a fun side.”
Jose Duran, principal of the summer school that runs through July 22 at the East Campus Educational Center, said the 124 students participating are polite, respectful and spirited. The students are incoming freshmen through juniors who are attending Le Grand, Golden Valley, Merced, Atwater, Livingston, El Capitan and Yosemite high schools.
The program is a partnership between the Opportunity Center, Merced County Office of Education’s migrant program and Merced Union High School District.
Ninety of the 124 students are involved in a “cyber high school” independent studies program, assisted by college and high school tutors. Another 24 freshmen students take algebra readiness class for three periods of the day, according to Duran. Two classes help students improve their English proficiency and bypass remedial English Language Development classes during the regular school year.
Duran said since they couldn’t take the students to Brazil for the World Cup soccer competition, the World Cup was brought to them. The summer school’s theme was “We Are One World” and students represented six nations – Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Ghana, Japan and Spain – in volleyball, basketball and soccer competition. Students dressed in the colors of the six nations represented.
Andrea DeLeon, yearbook and English teacher for the summer school, characterized the students as intelligent, well-behaved and motivated. Students traditionally produce a yearbook, and many of those dating back to 1987 are part of the growing yearbook collection.
“It’s amazing to see how the program started and evolved,” DeLeon said. “It’s an amazing environment to be with kids who make it so fun and rewarding.”
During the school year, DeLeon teaches English language development (ELD) classes at Merced High School.
Cesar Flores teaches algebra readiness and geometry classes in the summer program. All freshmen are taking algebra classes. Sophomores through seniors are learning geometry.
Language obstacles notwithstanding, Flores said math is math and students can see the sequence of things. He said geometry is a tough course and more visual but his students are “getting it.”
Fabian Villa is teaching computer applications classes. Several years ago many students didn’t know much about technology but now they are much more familiar with computers and are gaining proficiency. Part of the class involves getting students typing at least 30 words per minute.
Daniela Ceja, 17, is co-president of the migrant student body. A Le Grand High senior this fall, Ceja has lived in Planada all her life and participated in the summer program two years ago.
Ceja said the summer program helps her make up credits and gain confidence.
“I love it; it benefits me,” she said.
Carlos Macias, 18, will be a senior this fall at Atwater High School. He is trying to motivate typically shy freshmen to come out of their shells and participate in student activities. The summer program gives him a chance to catch up on required academic credits.
Veronica Enriquez is one of eight summer teachers and focuses on leadership. During the year she teaches algebra and geometry at El Capitan High School, but is focused on leading students in fun lunchtime activities such as trivia contests – part of the enrichment component.
Enriquez said the migrant students have to be dedicated to attend the program. Some of them are picked up at 5 a.m. and don’t make it home until 5 p.m. Classes regularly run from 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.