About the project
In this HUD housing project at Rancho Sespe, surrounded by farmland, parents are often away at work and kids have no transportation to other outlets for enrichment or entertainment. The summer program has heightened students' motivation to learn and has given the kids a sense of purpose in their lives. In this gang-infested area, it has helped guide the kids to positive pursuits and there’s evidence that it has impacted and reduced the crime rate in this area over the past decade.
How we help
Support of the Rancho Sespe summer program changes lives. Kids of migrant workers who’ve grown up at Rancho Sespe and observe the positive effects of the summer school on their community often serve as volunteers throughout their high school years. They learn to aspire to greater things in their own lives and desire to see their community change for the better.
Former students, Carlos and Victor, recently graduated from high school and will be attending college. Carlos wants to be a fireman and Victor plans to be a pharmacist. They’ll be good leaders because they’ve mastered many good habits in their years at the summer camp. They both plan to be volunteers next year during their summer break.
Gorgonio, now 19 years old, served as part of the summer staff. He joined the Rancho Sespe summer school classes when he was 11. While on a class field trip, he rescued a girl who was drowning. He decided that serving others was what he wanted to do and he plans to study to be a paramedic.
The Full Circle Learning curriculum used at Rancho Sespe supports students to become the helpers and healers of their communities. The summer program helps them academically and to meaningfully contribute to their community. The goal is that students will resist gang life, appreciate differences and become ambassadors of goodwill and peace. Students develop a vocabulary and a repertoire of strategies that help them practice habits associated with positive character and leadership (such as honesty, open-mindedness, forgiveness and humility) and to apply them in interpersonal and community-based applications.
Over the years, Rancho Sespe summer school has matured into a touchstone in the community—an example of service and cohesive relationships among teachers, children and parents. People who had been nurtured as aides for years have flourished as project leaders. Parents who had watched from the sidelines have become involved as volunteers and practice the “habits of heart” at home with their children. Community members such as firefighters are invited in to share their professions and experience and are also honored for their service.
Rancho Sespe provides a “home living opportunity” for families working in the agricultural area surrounding Fillmore and Piru, California. Sugey Lopez, long-time site director of the Full-Circle Learning Summer School, describes the initiative as a chance “to help the children of low-income families by providing a program that would keep the children on the right path while also being able to give back to the community themselves.”
Indeed, they just keep giving back, year after year. A visit to their mastery ceremony brings tears to the eyes as the parents universally attend, potluck dishes in hand, year after year, and the children showcase the service projects they have implemented, integrating character strengths with new academic learning, for the benefit of the human family and of all living things.
Each class conducts its own age-appropriate academic activities in the context of a habit-of-heart unit, culminating in a joint field trip at the end of the week. The projects lead students from personal to community transformation. For example, children as young as three learned about civic-mindedness through science experiments with water and then explored the importance of laws that protect the ocean. They practiced service when they visited the ocean to remove oil cans and other foreign objects from the beach.
As the students continue reading, conducting experiments, drawing and singing through their intensive summer school with the intention of applying their skills to improve the community, they recharge a sense of purpose that informs their school-year motivation as well as their current and future character development. For this reason, each class has a name. The youngest students go by the name of Peacemakers. The elementary school students are called the Rebuilders (as they specialize in how to rebuild connections that create peace); and the students of middle-school age and beyond call themselves Ambassadors. They become emblems of positive change in the community and leaders in mastering the habits-of-heart.
Monique (11 years old) and Junior Hurtado (9 years old) are two siblings that have been coming to the summer program for the last 4 years also, they were both participants of the Piru Full Circle Learning preschool. Junior aspires to one day become a professional basketball player and knows that he will have to work hard to make it happen. He likes to give back to the community and by not going too far off, he uses his extra time to help his parents not only keep his front yard clean but neighbor’s house as well. This year he was most excited about learning of aspiration as it motivated him to accomplish his dreams. He recognizes that he has a good sister who is nice to him and who he can look up to at the Summer Program and at home. Monique enjoys learning new things and being able to put them to practice in the outside world. She finds it amazing that the things she learns here every summer can become possible at home and in the community. Aside from learning at Full Circle Learning, Monique enjoys being able to see her friends and hang out together. As for her brother, she wants him to learn new things and for him to work hard in reaching his dreams. Monique is a true inspiration to her family as she will soon be on her way to middle school and got promoted from Piru Elementary School with Condor Honors and a Presidential award in Academics.
Served 40 children, 50% girls and 50% boys, and 100 families. Demographics of Students: 99% Mexican or Mexican-American; 1% others.
Offered differentiated program aimed at training each student to become emblems of positive change in the community. Peacemakers - the youngest; Rebuilders, the elementary school students; Ambassadors, the middle-school age+.
Took the kids to three field trips around the the summer’s water and ecology themes, Fillmore Fish Hatchery, Discovery Cube Science Center, and Ventura beach to study the impact of water pollution.
2017 project goals
Conduct an expanded summer program for up to 100 kids.
Incorporate weekly field trips for service learning experiences.