Aim High Academy
Aim High is a middle school summer academic enrichment program that was designed and created at San Francisco's Lick-Wilmerding High School in 1986, by Alec Lee and Eleanor McBride, two Lick-Wilmerding teachers. A founding grant from the San Francisco Foundation helped launch the program. As of 2010, the program has 12 locations, mostly in San Francisco, and has approximately 1,100 students at these 12 campuses. Currently, Aim High serves the Ingleside, Haight, Western Addition, Chinatown, Mission, and Visitation Valley neighborhoods in San Francisco, Lake Meritt, East Oakland, and Fruitvale districts in Oakland, and Menlo Park. In 2010, Aim High launched two summer programs in Marin County. Aim High has expanded significantly in the past few years and worked closely with its Board of Trustees to grow with high quality and devote resources to measuring impact and enhancing quality.
The current program accepts students from those who have completed sixth grade to those who have completed eighth grade; however, the bulk of students enter Aim High after their sixth grade year. The summer enrichment program focuses on students' academics through reinforcing and reviewing material learned during the school year, as well as trying to push the students forward. Because there is such a low student to teacher ratio, struggling students are able to receive one-on-one help, something extremely lacking in public schools.
The standard Aim High day includes a morning assembly, morning classes in Issues and Choices, Humanities, Math, and Science, advisory or assembly, lunch, and activities. Some campuses offer Computer as one of the classes as well. On Fridays, in addition to attending their academic classes, students participate in a "cultural" day where the entire campus participate in different activities that are related to such themes of ethnic cultures, social justice, urban exploration, sporting events, etc.
Success at Aim High is attributed to high student motivation, the unique dynamics of the teaching staff, and parental involvement.
All students must apply to the program with an application that is available in multiple languages. Also during the school day, staff keep the students motivated by community meetings in the morning, activities during mid-morning assemblies (such as Jeopardy or the human machine game), and activities in the afternoon.
The teaching staff is extraordinarily unique because not only do students and teachers are on a first-name basis, teachers are any age above 15. Aim High employs teaching assistants (high school students), teaching interns (college students), and master teachers (credentialed teachers, or college graduates looking at a career in teaching). Different groups of staff are placed in the same teaching team to educate students and enrich their knowledge by having teachers who can easily relate to the students on an age level and teachers who can offer experience and knowledge in the classroom. Furthermore, more than 26% of the staff are alumni of Aim High.
Parents are heavily involved in the program. Parents are required to attend three evening meetings during the summer: Orientation Night, Back-to-School Night, and Celebration Night. Staff and at least one Aim High Central Office staff host these nights to introduce students' parents to what their children will be doing that summer. During Orientation Night, staff introduce themselves, the school building, and rules and procedures to students and parents. On Back-to-School Night, parents are able to interact with teachers and see their students' progress. On Celebration night, students and staff a night to look back on what was accomplished that summer. Usually starting with a potluck families provide, parents are treated to student performances, promotion and graduation ceremonies, staff appreciation, and a student gallery. This gallery is where students all put out the work they did that summer as exhibits. Celebration Night also closes the program.
Aim High has received national recognition for its high quality and measurable impact from the National Center for Summer Learning and the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award program.
Connection with the Marin Headlands
In addition to the summer program, 9th graders of the program visit Marin Headlands as environmental stewards for one week to perform restoration work in the Headlands. The team in the Marin Headlands headed by Richard Lautze lead students on hikes, night hikes, weeding, planting, and community building activities. Many students also camp at the Marin Headlines overnight for one night as part of the program. This component of Aim High has been recognized as a Crissy Field Environmental Heroes award recipient.