Piru-RanchoSespe, United States

Piru is a small town located in eastern Ventura County. Full Circle Learning has been serving the children of migrant workers since 2001 in a summer program which helps students achieve academic excellence while building character strength, creativity and conflict resolution skills. 53% of participating students of this program are girls.

About the project

In 2018, due to various challenges, Full Circle Learning summer program had to be moved from Rancho Sespe to a nearby town of Piru, California. This move turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Full-Circle Learning in Piru opened its summer school to children from preschool through secondary school, serving four feeder schools in the area. For one month, teachers of the Peacemakers (3-6 year-olds), Rebuilders (7-11 year-olds) and Ambassadors (12 and beyond) adapt the joint weekly habit-of-heart themes to the academic, artistic and service goals of each age group. The learners come together for service-learning field trips. They learn songs as a group to present as a gift to field trip hosts and also as a tool for advocacy or a gift for uplifting those in need over the course of their service projects.

For the summer school of 2019, the teachers chose to focus on the following four thematic units: Friendship, Forgiveness, Creativity and Reliability.

How we help

This project relies largely on the Mona grant largely for its sustainability. The materials and program needs provided by the Mona Foundation once again helped these learners in Ventura County’s agricultural belt to develop leadership and life skills while enhancing literacy and understanding of culturally relevant skills and information about the world whose leadership they will inherit.

Parents of this year’s Full-Circle Learning program in Piru reached out to explain the visible difference they see between the teachers in the program and other teachers their children have encountered at school. Their spirit of altruism and caring role modeling, along with the intuitive adaptations of FCL concepts, has helped the program thrive as a generation of students has grown to adulthood. The teachers and site directors of this particular Full-Circle Learning program grew up in the migrant workers’ village where this project began.

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.

Field trips and supplies help teachers customize the program each year and afford learners opportunities to broaden their horizons and explore meaningful opportunities for service. For example, this year, they had a chance to learn how their knowledge of earthquakes can help them save lives and how their paintings of the universe compare with the farsighted, telescopic views presented to them at a university’s astronomy department. Each unit expands their access to meaningful education and participation in community transformation, in ways they do not experience during the school year.

This year’s buses traveled greater distances than last year due to the inclusion of the observatory, where the students presented pictures they had painted about farsightedness and learned valuable lessons about science and inventions are improving our world.

At the senior center, they presented memory books for photos as part of their earthquake preparedness project, having seen how children in our wisdom-exchange school in Africa helped with cholera prevention and how their compatriots in Haiti learned to install hurricane clips last. They enjoyed hypothetical “rescues” of guest presenter Rainn Wilson and another visitor during their earthquake drill. The final humanitarian project helped them teach the importance of clean beaches for humans and wildlife. Reading projects helped them explore biology, history, and geology. Parents of the youngest children receive read-aloud books and guidance assisting their preschools.

Five years ago, after a spate of traffic deaths, the students had taught the car dealers conflict resolution and encouraged them to teach the habit of Forgiveness to new car buyers, to reduce road rage. They made key chains for the car dealer to give each customer who promised to practice forgiveness on the road. This year, as each class gave the car dealer a gift of handmade art, he burst into smiles. “I’m so glad you’re here!” he said. I’ve given away so many keychains, I’m almost out! Everyone wants that reminder. I hope you brought more!” Coincidentally or not, a check of traffic records showed no new fatalities in the past year or so on that stretch of highway.

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.

Hi my name is Axel Aguilar and I am 8 years old. I have been part of Full-Circle Learning since I was a peacemaker. What I looked forward to the most this year was learning more things. This year what I learned about is humanitarianism, farsightedness, and vision seeking. The habit of heart that stood out to me the most was humanitarianism because it means helping people and caring about them. The program has helped me be a better person because I help lots of people. I help my mom and dad carry the grocery bags and I also help my sister with her homework. The thing I liked the most was making art, learning and going on field trips.

Hello, my name is Jacqueline Arevalo and I am 12 years old. This year was my first year attending Full-Circle Learning. My thoughts about the program is that it is a good way for kids to get distracted and away from electronics. The thing that I looked forward to the most was arts and crafts and having lots of fun. Learning about the different habits of heart have helped me to be more reasonable and help others before coming to this summer I didn’t know what being a humanitarian was, until I learned about it here. //

My favorite habit of heart to learn to learn about was humanitarianism because there is hardly people who take the time to help others. Before, my mom would tell me to go and help a person who we saw needed help and I didn’t want to. Now I know the importance of being a humanitarian and helping others. What I liked about this year was learning new things that I didn’t know about and the meaning behind each arts and crafts. For example, the sea shell cards were fun, but also important for the elderly. I also enjoyed fields trips because they were fun and exciting. I am excited and look forward to coming back next year.

The lesson this year was: Groom and train teachers from within and their desire to serve the community will steer the program.

The teachers and site directors of this particular Full-Circle Learning program grew up in the migrant workers’ village where this project began. Some were Full-Circle Learning students as children. All went on to receive their teaching certificates or to certify as aides. They received both formal and experiential training as Full-Circle Learning educators, but they carry the life skills of the program into every facet of their community life—their winter jobs at various schools, their home lives raising children, and their work in Sunday schools and as respected collaborators among parents and community members.

Four schools in Piru and Fillmore, from preschool through high school, benefit from the life skills and learning advanced in the Full-Circle Learning program, which moved this year from Rancho Sespe to Piru, California. Some are children of parents who benefited from the “Dreamers Act.” Other families emigrated at various points in time from Mexico to the valley’s remote HUD housing project, Rancho Sespe, as Spanish-speaking agricultural workers without access to the enrichment programs of larger cities.

The learning community suffered when the HUD management was taken over by HUD’s offsite centralized office. Immigrant services were made almost inaccessible and, at best, cost prohibitive for organizations serving immigrant families.  As the summer school start date approached, with the HUD permissions deadline hanging in the balance the staff was authorized to initiate their own creative solution. They quickly arranged for summer school space at the Catholic Church, three miles away in the town of Piru, where the school district had opened its first preschool services a year prior, inspired by the success of the many years of Full-Circle Learning preschoolers.

Moving the summer school to Piru was so successful, parents at the mastery ceremony voiced their gratitude, so it now could serve an even larger number of families in the communities. The church and others offered to store equipment during the winter.

Support this summer program for 2021

Click on each of the suggested donation amounts below to see what your investment in education of children of migrant workers can support in this program.


2020 Achievements

Students in the 2020 three-week program strived to master one habit-of-heart each week: Resiliency, Love, and Unity. Students greatly needed to develop a deep understanding of these habits-of-heart to cope with the pandemic

Served 45 children, 53% girls

Teachers adapted lesson plans into worksheets, project supply kits, Zoom classes, and technical training support for both students and parents

2021 Project Goals

  • Continue the summer program for 45 students supported by 5 teachers
  • Provide operational support (Teachers, Assistants, Program Support), $14,050.

Change five lives!

Give $50 a month, or $500 a year, to fund full scholarship to 2 student to the summer camp.