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Pacific Summer Academy sparks college dreams in kids facing housing insecurity

University of the Pacific, Stockton Unified School District sponsor the program
Jun 30, 2016

“College was fun they served eggs Pankakes and tater tots.” “I liked breakfast and lunch because it was deliouse. My favorite food is the pancakes and the cookies. And I liked the sausage. And I liked the sandwiches. And I liked the eggs that we had in the morning. And that white milk was good.”

These journal entries suggest a hearty meal can be the key to a youngster’s college ambitions, especially for kids whose families are coping with housing insecurity.

Putting college on these children’s radar -- even when a stable place to sleep is beyond their reach -- is the ambitious goal of the Pacific Summer Academy. A partnership between University of the Pacific and the Stockton Unified School District, the four-week day camp is open to incoming 2nd through 6th graders served by the district’s Families in Transition program. The Academy has served about 37 students a day this summer, its third year.

“We want these students to come into the university to experience college and change the stigma of a university as a place for other people,” said Arianna Yepez, assistant director of the Jacoby Center for Public Service and Civic Leadership at Pacific. “We want them to see college as a place for them.”

The four-week summer day camp provides a chance to launch balloon rockets, go on scavenger hunts or curl up with a good book in the library.

It’s also an opportunity for kids to brush up on some of the habits that can fall by the wayside when a family’s top priority is reliable housing -- habits like tooth brushing, bathing and regular exercise.

Day campers have access to showers at the campus fitness center, sinks for tooth brushing in the liberal arts building, and acres of grounds and rose gardens for walks and outdoor games.

“This collaboration is a powerful opportunity for Stockton Unified School District to expose our kids to their future, which does include being college and career-ready,” said Dee Alinbini, the district’s director of Student Support Services, which encompasses the Families in Transition program. “Who wouldn't spend time on this beautiful campus and not want to return?"

Stockton Unified provides funding and busing for the day camp. Pacific and its Jacoby Center provide facilities, staffing and administrative support, including hiring and supervising teachers and planning the curriculum. Two of this year’s teachers are recent graduates of Pacific’s Benerd School of Education.

The Academy grew out of after-school programs the Jacoby Center has provided for the past decade at about a dozen Stockton public schools.

The first Academy lasted two weeks. This year, organizers doubled it to four, with kids attending from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Moms and dads participate, too.  Weekly Thursday afternoon workshops for parents cover topics ranging from how to talk so kids will listen to positive discipline.

According to their journals, Academy participants like the field trips, hands-on science activities, art projects, computer lab, math games, library and opportunity to make new friends.

That, and the college cuisine.

“I enjoyed the food and the juice,” one youngster’s journal reports.

“What I liked about today was breakfast,” says another. “Because it was so good.”

Note: Stockton Unified School District’s Families in Transition program welcomes donations of school supplies, clothes and monetary contributions. Contributions can be addressed to Families in Transition, 1144 East Channel St., Room 104, Stockton, CA 95202.

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